Americans Continue to File for Unemployment as Workers Call in Sick

February 3, 2022 – The Labor Department reported that 238,000 Americans have filed new claims for state unemployment benefits, a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 260,000 to 261,000. The four-week moving average was 255,000, an increase of 7,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 247,000 to 247,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.2 percent for the week, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week was 1,628,000, a decrease of 44,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 3,000 from 1,675,000 to 1,672,000. The four-week moving average was 1,619,750, a decrease of 31,250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since August 4, 1973 when it was 1,608,750. The previous week’s average was revised down by 750 from 1,651,750 to 1,651,000.

According to The Century Foundation, about 3.8 million unemployed individuals have been unable to claim unemployment benefits because they have already exhausted their state or federal pandemic-era jobless insurance.

“Omicron case counts remain elevated but have moved lower from the recent peak in mid-January,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note. “Businesses were forced to scale back or close temporarily because of infections or isolation protocols. However, as the health backdrop improves, we expect layoffs to continue to trend lower.”

The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week was 2,067,781, a decrease of 73,205 from the previous week. There were 18,521,105 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2021. During the week, extended benefits were available in the following two states: New Jersey, and New Mexico. Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 684 in the week, a decrease of 255 from the prior week. There were 362 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 77 from the preceding week.

Missing Time

Census Bureau data shows that more than 8.7 million workers missed time in late-January into February due either to having Covid themselves or having to care for someone with the virus. Nearly 2 million more said they were out of work due to their employer closing for Covid-related reasons, while almost 1.5 million more said they lost jobs because their employer shut down permanently due to the pandemic.

The weekly jobless claims report also serves as one of the last additional pieces of employment data heading into the Labor Department’s official monthly jobs report on Friday. Consensus economists expect to see that non-farm payrolls grew by 150,000 in January — or the least since December 2020 — due to impacts from the Omicron variant. The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 3.9 percent, matching December’s rate for the lowest since the start of the pandemic in the U.S.

Underlying strength on the labor market was underscored by a separate report on Thursday from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas showing job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers holding steady at 19,064 in January. Layoffs were down 76% compared to January 2021.

Looking Ahead

Employers in 32 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed expect an increase in payrolls during the next three months, while three percent expect to trim payrolls and 63 percent anticipate no change, according to the latest “Employment Outlook Survey,” released by ManpowerGroup.

“Employers are ready to bring their workers back as restrictions lift and America gets ready to work,” said Becky Frankiewicz ManpowerGroup president, North America. “Yet childcare challenges, health concerns and competition mean demand still outstrips supply which is dampening the ‘big return’ of the American workforce. It’s a worker’s market and employees are acting like consumers in how they are consuming work – seeking flexibility, competitive pay and fast decisions.” Now is the time for employers to get creative to attract talent, she said, “and to hold onto the workers they have with both hands.”

According to the study, payroll gains were expected in all 12 U.S. industry sectors: leisure and hospitality (+41 percent), wholesale and retail trade (+29 percent), education and health services (+27 percent), transportation & utilities (+26 percent), durable goods manufacturing (+25 percent), nondurable goods manufacturing (+25 percent), professional and business services (+21 percent), construction (+19 percent), information (+18 percent), other services (+16 percent), financial activities (+15 percent) and government (+15 percent).

Related: Major Paradigm Shifts Coming Out of the Coronavirus Crisis

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media


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