Americans Continue to File for Unemployment Despite Loosening Restrictions

As vaccines roll out across the nation, troubles persist in the jobs market. When all is said and done, according to Bob Clarke of Furst Group, one outcome will be that companies prepared to demonstrate flexibility in balancing a job seeker’s work preferences will likely win the best talent.

March 4, 2021 – The Labor Department reported this morning that 748,000 more Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession. The Fed have now reported about 78 million initial jobless claims over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic — a number equivalent to roughly 47 percent of the nation’s workforce. Since last February, the United States has lost over 10 million jobs.

The figures continue to far exceed their pre-crisis levels as the resurgent pandemic leads to more stringent business restrictions and raises people’s fears of infection. Vaccine distribution is expected to restore economic activity later this year, but the rollout has been slower than expected and is limiting the speed at which the job market is able to recover. President Joe Biden recently released details of his $1.9 trillion economic relief plan. If approved, it would provide $400 per week in supplementary unemployment benefits through September, aid for state and local governments, and direct payments of $1,400 to individuals.

Another important indicator of the economy will come Friday, when the Labor Department reports on hiring and unemployment in February. Economists expect the report to show a gain of 200,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 6.3 percent.

“The labor market is continuing to gradually improve,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “Job growth will accelerate, perhaps as soon as the second quarter, with decent gains in leisure and hospitality and travel.”

During the week, 51 states reported 7,328,311 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 51 states reported 4,466,916 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Pennsylvania (6.3), Alaska (5.7), Nevada (5.4), Rhode Island (5.1), Connecticut (4.9), New York (4.9), the Virgin Islands (4.9), California (4.7), Illinois (4.7), and New Mexico (4.6). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Illinois (+6,014), Missouri (+5,624), Tennessee (+3,987), Mississippi (+3,266), and Colorado (+2,842), while the largest decreases were in California (-49,138), Ohio (-45,189), New York (-9,117), Idaho (-5,111), and Michigan (-3,942).

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Bob Clarke is the CEO of Furst Group, an executive search firm which serves the healthcare and insurance industries. Mr. Clarke has been a trusted advisor to CEOs and boards for more than 30 years. His acumen in executive search and integrated talent management is valued by hospital systems, managed care organizations, medical groups, indemnity companies, end-of-life care providers, healthcare associations and other medical delivery systems across the U.S.

Mr. Clarke recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the pandemic, hiring, and to forecast his expectations for 2021. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

Bob ClarkeBob, has it been more difficult working with clients in the pandemic era? Do you think these changes will be here to stay?  

The most significant challenge working with clients has been to establish a new paradigm for business development. With respect to the execution of searches, the transition has actually gone quite smoothly and there has been greater efficiency in scheduling Zooms with candidates and clients given that many executives no longer face the demands of travel. I believe that moving forward certainly through the entire year of 2021 most executives will continue working remotely or developing a hybrid model which has them balancing time between office and home-based work. Beyond 2021, I see a more robust desire to include one on one contact with colleagues; however, I believe companies that are prepared to demonstrate the highest level of flexibility with respect to balancing individuals’ preferences are likely to win in the demand for talent.

“Companies that are prepared to demonstrate the highest level of flexibility with respect to balancing individuals’ preferences are likely to win in the demand for talent.”

How do the best senior executives provide leadership during a highly volatile economy like we are experiencing today?   

Feeling most comfortable commenting about life science companies, the challenges resulting from the pandemic have placed increased pressure to deliver and execute clinical trials. Companies have responded with the sense of urgency in developing programs both vaccines and therapeutics to address the needs of the pandemic. The rapid methodology and timeline in clinical development and manufacturing has the potential to be applied to the development cycle of other therapeutics. The industry is likely to be called on to discover, develop, and deliver vaccines and therapeutics that will address today’s pandemic and any future pandemics in a more methodical way.

What long-term impact do you see the COVID-19 pandemic having on the healthcare and life sciences sectors?  

I see the life science sector continuing the growth curve it has enjoyed for the past decade. It will likely be marked with increasing results and innovations enhanced manufacturing capabilities, streamlining of the development process, and increased collaboration with government and world health organizations.

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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