Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Level in COVID-19 Pandemic Era

With more states and cities lifting restrictive business measures amid a decline in the number of coronavirus cases, the jobs economy continues to show signs of improvement. Let’s take a look inside the latest weekly jobless claim figures released by the Department of Labor this morning. Veteran recruiting consultant Mark Magruder of Magruder Executive Search shares his views on how his firm has adjusted.

April 22, 2021 – The Labor Department reported this morning that 547,000 Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 10,000 from 576,000 to 586,000. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected 603,000 filings. Since last February, the U.S. has lost over 11 million jobs. While the number of weekly claims remains inordinately high by historical means, the trend is falling now that the U.S. economy continues to reopen and close to three million Americans receive vacations each day for COVID-19.

Still, there remain about eight million fewer Americans at work than prior to the pandemic outbreak. This morning’s report showed that both unemployment and underemployment remain significant problems for the U.S. economy. There are still 17.4 million Americans receiving benefits under the various programs in place, though that data runs two weeks behind the headline claims number. Sharp increases in those applying for benefits through pandemic-related programs boosted the total recipients by nearly half a million.

“The bigger story — even though we’re going to see volatility week to week — is that the labor market continues to heal and labor demand is coming back quite strongly in line with robust growth,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the trend is going in the right direction,” said Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “But we’re still at crisis levels of unemployment claims.”

During the week, 51 states reported 7,309,604 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 51 states reported 5,605,935 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Nevada (5.6), Connecticut (5.2), Alaska (5.1), New York (4.4), Illinois (4.2), Pennsylvania (4.2), District of Columbia (4.1), Rhode Island (4.0), Vermont (4.0), and California (3.7). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in New York (+16,028), Florida (+9,377), Alabama (+5,517), Washington (+5,380), and Georgia (+4,759), while the largest decreases were in California (-76,082), Virginia (-23,492), Ohio (-21,831), Texas (-17,436), and Kentucky (-15,424).

Veteran Search Consultant Weighs In

Magruder Executive Search was founded by Mark D. Magruder after a 15-year stint as a partner with a boutique recruiting outfit he formed with other partners in 2002. He has more than 20 years of experience in executive search. Mr. Magruder has extensive search experience in the energy sector, assisting oilfield services, midstream and E&P clients introduce complementary leadership. His generalist recruiting experience also includes aerospace & defense, industrial, chemicals and consumer client support.

Mr. Magruder recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the pandemic, hiring, and how his firm has adjusted to working with clients and candidates during the pandemic era. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

Mark D. Magruder

Mark, many are optimistic about a return to normalcy by summer. What are your thoughts about the recovery? 

There is plenty of optimism in the marketplace as all of our clients significantly modified their operations to provide safety and protection for their employees. Now that 50 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, clients are opening their offices again. They are welcoming back those who are able to return. For employees who aren’t able to return to the office, technology as an enabler to increased productivity continues to provide a unique bridge allowing our clients to continue to execute their business plans. It’s been interesting to see how each client has evolved in their approach to managing through the pandemic, and all of our clients see 2021 as a recovery year with pent-up demand for both products and services.

“For employees who aren’t able to return to the office, technology as an enabler to increased productivity continues to provide a unique bridge allowing our clients to continue to execute their business plans.” 

How busy are you?

It’s interesting how we’ve evolved to meet each client’s risk sensitivity to the pandemic. We’ve leveraged new technologies and applied that to some clients that formerly never used them. One of the key tools has been our use of videoconferencing which began following 9/11 when travel was interrupted. Now that every business has embraced videoconferencing, it has definitely been a game-changer relative to continual connectivity to their employees, dispersed teams, and candidate assessment. As most of our search practice supports emerging companies that range from $100 million to $1 billion in revenues, we grow with them. All our clients made an investment spend in their executive search activities during the downturn to make sure they had the right people in the right places functionally to prepare for a recovery. By investing spending in key leadership, they’re ahead of the curve now that the recovery is happening.

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients?

We’ve always believed that service and alignment as an operating partner to our clients has been a key differentiator for our firm. Our clients can reach us in real time, anytime, and that hasn’t changed. Continual communication through every channel has kept dispersed client teams engaged. We’ll continue to assess and leverage new technologies as the recovery continues, but fundamentally, our clients know that they can reach us anytime which ultimately accelerates the search process and allows us to focus on execution.

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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