It's no secret that COVID-19 has been battering the U.S. economy for what's coming up on two months now. And hourly workers may be getting hit the hardest.

An estimated 42% of hourly workers have already filed or plan to file for unemployment benefits, reports Bluecrew, a staffing technology platform, compared to just 17% of salaried employees ("just" being a relative term, of course). As such, they're understandably concerned.

Financial and health worries alike

A good 78% of hourly workers fear they won't manage to make ends meet during the pandemic. And seeing as how 47% have less than $1,000 available in savings, that makes sense. Many hourly workers are seeing their hours cut or are losing their jobs outright. And some risk losing their health insurance a side effect of getting laid-off.

Man wearing hard hat and holding clipboard standing next to shelves stocked with wood


But it's not just money concerns that are preying on hourly workers' minds; many have safety concerns, too. An estimated 54% are worried about being exposed to COVID-19 in the course of their jobs, and 18% are considering quitting their jobs because of that fear. The latter group, however, risks losing out on unemployment benefits, which are reserved for employees who don't leave their jobs voluntarily, but rather, are let go. And that extends to COVID-19 fears, too -- workers who quit for that reason still can't qualify for benefits.

What's also frustrating is that 51% of hourly workers are reporting that their employers aren't offering additional benefits or relief during the ongoing crisis. For essential employees who are putting their health on the line to report to work, that's a harsh blow.

Weathering the storm as an hourly worker

If you're an hourly worker, you should know that you may be entitled to unemployment benefits if your hours are reduced through no fault of your own. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, unemployment benefits are being both boosted and extended, so if you've lost any of your income in the past number of weeks, it pays to file a claim and see what relief you're entitled to.

You should also know that many loan servicers, landlords, and service providers are offering financial relief to customers during the pandemic. If you've lost some or all of your income and don't have savings to tap, reach out and ask for help. You may be granted more time to pay your mortgage, rent, auto loan, or utility bills.

Finally, if you feel that your workplace is unsafe due to the COVID-19 threat, it pays to discuss your concerns with your manager and also come prepared with a list of concrete changes you'd like to see implemented. And if that fails, you can contact the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to discuss your concerns. Many hourly employees are reporting to work right now because they can't afford a drop in income, all the while compromising their health, so it pays to see what rights you may have. You may also want to talk to an attorney who's experienced in labor law -- specifically, one who's willing to offer a free consultation.