Jobless Claims Fall; Recovery Continues to Face Obstacles

March 3, 2022 – The Labor Department reported that 215,000 Americans have filed new claims for state unemployment benefits, a decrease of 18,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 1,000 from 232,000 to 233,000. The four-week moving average was 230,500, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 250 from 236,250 to 236,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.1 percent for the week, unchanged from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week was 1,476,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised down by 2,000 from 1,476,000 to 1,474,000. The four-week moving average was 1,539,500, a decrease of 36,250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since April 4, 1970 when it was 1,516,000. The previous week’s average was revised down by 250 from 1,576,000 to 1,575,750.

A separate report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that nonfarm productivity rose 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter, slightly less than the estimate for 6.7 percent. However, unit labor costs rose 0.9 percent, well ahead of the expected 0.3 percent.

Wages have surged in the current environment, with average hourly earnings up 5.7 percent in January, a level well above anything seen in the pre-pandemic environment, according to Labor Department data going back about 15 years.

“Weekly unemployment insurance claims are back to historically low levels after a two-month jump thanks mainly to the Omicron wave,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “We may even see it fall lower: services sector hiring should accelerate now that Omicron is petering, and employers are still loath to let workers go given how hard hiring is.”

“We can add as many jobs as we want to the labor market, but we simply do not have the workforce to fill enough of these open roles,” said Bledi Taska, chief economist at labor market analytics firm Emsi Burning Glass. “The most recent statistics show only 58 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings. Employers need to engage with those who are on the sidelines to bring them back into the workforce.”

Labor Supply Remains Subdued

“Labor demand is very strong, and while labor force participation has ticked up, labor supply remains subdued,” said Jerome Powell Federal Reserve chairman. “As a result, employers are having difficulties filling job openings, an unprecedented number of workers are quitting to take new jobs, and wages are rising at their fastest pace in many years.”

Challenges, Opportunities and Leadership Implications of the Great Resignation
In a new report, Russell Reynolds Associates says that availability of key talent and skills is a leading cause of concern among business leaders. And it’s the No. 1 issue they feel least ready to face. Forty percent of employees, in fact, say that they are “at least somewhat likely” to depart from their current job in the next three to six months.

“The post-pandemic hiring recovery that has been underway for some time will continue to carry momentum with employers predicting strong demand for talent across key sectors,” said Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup. “Companies all over the world need skilled workers to meet their business objectives and fully participate in the economic global recovery. Talent shortages continue and employers are competing with a talent pool that has not full returned to labor markets due to the pandemic. Organizations need to embrace bold thinking on where, when, and how work gets done to meet what workers want while balancing the requirements of business.”

There were 10,594 continued weeks claimed filed by former Federal civilian employees the week, an increase of 51 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 4,645, a decrease of 182 from the prior week. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Alaska (2.6), California (2.6), New Jersey (2.5), Rhode Island (2.4), Massachusetts (2.3), Minnesota (2.3), New York (2.2), Illinois (2.1), Connecticut (2.0), Montana (1.9), and Pennsylvania (1.9). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Michigan (+3,500), Kansas (+724), Utah (+454), Connecticut (+349), and District of Columbia (+239), while the largest decreases were in Missouri (-6,949), New York (-3,037), Ohio (-2,212), California (-2,182), and Tennessee (-1,959).

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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