Americans Continue to File Unemployment Claims as Pandemic’s Effects Continue

The job market continues to struggle, held back by COVID-19 and the slow rollout of vaccines. Let’s take a look inside the latest unemployment figures released by the Department of Labor this morning as search professional Bryan Passman of Hunter + Esquire shares his views!

February 4, 2021 – The Labor Department reported this morning that 779,000 more Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. That was below the Dow Jones estimate for 830,000 and a decline of 33,000 from a week ago.

The feds have now reported about 76 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 February, the United States has lost 9.8 million jobs, including 140,000 in December.

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 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.

“I think this winter is going to be particularly tough on the job market,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The path of the economy is tied to the hip of the pandemic.”

During the week, 50 states reported 7,217,713 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 50 states reported 3,603,098 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Alaska (6.4), Pennsylvania (6.4), Nevada (6.1), Illinois (5.7), Kansas (5.7), Connecticut (5.4), New Mexico (5.4), Rhode Island (5.2), Massachusetts (5.0), and New York (4.9). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Florida (+23,592), Ohio (+7,002), New York (+4,065), Maryland (+2,450), and Arizona (+1,028), while the largest decreases were in California (-59,016), Kansas (-8,495), Georgia (-7,896), Pennsylvania (-6,341), and Tennessee (-6,016).

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Bryan Passman is co-founder and CEO of Hunter + Esquire. Founded in 2017 with the goal of helping industry-leading cannabis organizations break through the complex challenges facing the industry, Hunter + Esquire offers a consultative approach to business strategy and executive recruitment. Mr. Passman’s professional background before launching the firm was in executive search, having spent 18 years in MedTech/pharma (15 years) and food and adult beverage CPG (three years).

Mr. Passman 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.

Bryan, since the pandemic began how have things changed for your business and how you engage with clients?

The single biggest change in how we engage with our clients is the pivot away from all of the great in-person meetings we used to enjoy having together. They were a great way to get to know each other even better and strengthen our partnership bond. We’re all doubling down hard on more frequent communication through other means which is just fine for us since we believe an abundance of communications is never a bad thing. As a search firm, during the first half of 2020 we experienced the obvious dip in searches for our business and that was somewhat painful. However, we used the extra downtime to attack some long overdue housekeeping, admin, marketing/SEO, etc. You know, all of the things that true desk-junkies love to hate. Our business is more efficient now as a result and we were well-prepared to hit it hard again for clients when hiring in our cannabis economy bounced back late summer 2020.

“Those in the hospitality, entertainment and traditional big-box brick and mortar retail sectors have a long road to recovery ahead. Otherwise, I see a strong job market and search industry opportunity in 2021!”

How have clients reacted?

Our cannabis clients are resilient. There is no other way to survive in the industry. The immediate reactions early last year were scary to all, as companies let people go in order to save resources, but the “essential” business status our cannabis industry received was truly a blessing. Many cannabis companies thrived as a result, and reacted further to button up their cultures, strengthen hiring practices, focus on profitability and other positive moves to strengthen their businesses for what may come next.

What do you see for the job market and the search industry in 2021?

That depends on the industry you’re employed in or supporting in talent acquisition. Clearly, those in the hospitality, entertainment and traditional big-box brick and mortar retail sectors have a long road to recovery ahead. Otherwise, I see a strong job market and search industry opportunity in 2021!

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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