Jobless Claims Plunge as Nation Enters Post-Pandemic Recovery Stage

May 6, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 498,000 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 37,000 from 553,000 to 590,000. With the revisions, this is the lowest level of claims since the pandemic struck last year. Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had been looking for a drop to 527,000 new claims. Since last February, the U.S. has lost over 11 million jobs.

While the number of weekly claims remains 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. The U.S. is still vaccinating more than two million people a day and soon will have half the population with at least one shot. “In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a pretty dramatic improvement in the claims data, and I think that does signal that there’s been an acceleration in the labor market recovery in April,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the employment site ZipRecruiter.

“A bigger than expected decline in new jobless claims is a most pleasant surprise,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, told NBC News. “Not only did the headline number of claims fall to a new pandemic low, but it slipped slightly below the 500,000 level. Still, more than 16 million Americans continued to receive some form of jobless assistance as of the latest count. That’s not normal, not by far.”

“Overall it looks like we’re seeing healing in the jobs market,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist for S&P Global Ratings. “That’s much better than just over a year ago, but that’s still double what there was pre-crisis,” she said. “It would be [considered] bad in a normal recession, let’s just put it that way.”

During the week, 51 states reported 6,862,705 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 51 states reported 4,972,507 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates were in Nevada (6.2), Connecticut (5.2), the Virgin Islands (4.9), Alaska (4.7), New York (4.3), Illinois (4.1), Pennsylvania (4.1), Vermont (4.1), Rhode Island (4.0), and District of Columbia (3.7). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Virginia (+23,605), Florida (+9,179), Michigan (+8,234), California (+5,731), and Oregon (+4,064), while the largest decreases were in Texas (-12,673), Wisconsin (-7,504), Tennessee (-4,063), Georgia (-3,617), and Iowa (-3,026).

Recruiting Professional Weighs In

Cullen Onstott is managing director of The Onstott Group, a Wellesley, MA-based executive search firm. Mr. Onstott focuses primarily in the energy, financial services and technology industries. He joined the search firm in 2016 with eight years’ experience in the energy and financial services industries. He 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.

         Cullen Onstott

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

At Onstott Group, we are hearing from our clients mixed answers on what a “return to normalcy” looks like for their organizations. We are learning that some companies have been thriving with a remote culture and plan to remain “remote-first” while others are already having many of their employees return to the office full-time as more people are completing their vaccinations.

How busy are you at the moment?

Our business is currently extremely active and from a client perspective we are operating at a normal, pre-pandemic level. Much of this is due to the strong economic environment and growth-oriented companies continuing to raise additional capital necessary to achieve their revenue and growth goals.

“Our business is currently extremely active and from a client perspective we are operating at a normal, pre-pandemic level.”

Has your firm adjusted in how it serves clients?

We have found several silver linings from the past 14-months in the way that we serve our clients. While we continue to believe that nothing can replace in-person interactions, we have found that virtual interviews and meetings can be extremely effective. Our partners are spending more face-to-face time with candidates over video conferences than we were ever able to do in-person. This trend I believe will continue as we enter a new hybrid world where we utilize both methods of communication and evaluation of candidates.

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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