Jobless Claims Remain Idle as Recovery Looms

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a new pandemic low 268,000 last week, another sign that the job market is recovering from last year’s sharp coronavirus downturn. Let’s take a closer look.

November 18, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 268,000 Americans have filed new claims for state unemployment benefits, a decrease of 1,000. 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 2,000 from 267,000 to 269,000. The four-week moving average was 272,750, a decrease of 5,750 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week’s average was revised up by 500 from 278,000 to 278,500.

Still, economists say the labor market has a long way to go before reaching normalcy after national reads on employment over the last three months have mostly failed to impress them. “Overall, the labor market is on a gradual path of improvement. However, shortages — evident in the high level of job openings, which continue to outpace the number of unemployed individuals, — are preventing a stronger recovery,” wrote Rubeela Farooqi, chief economist for High Frequency Economics, in a note.

“Our expectation remains that as the cushion from savings continues to diminish, and assuming the virus does not disrupt activity once again, supply constraints will ease,” Ms. Farooqi added. “That will not only provide a boost to job growth but will also help lift participation and take pressure off wages.”

During the week, 41 states reported 791,060 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 43 states reported 272,974 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates were in District of Columbia (3.5), Puerto Rico (3.5), California (3.0), Alaska (2.5), Hawaii (2.5), Illinois (2.5), New Jersey (2.4), Nevada (2.2), the Virgin Islands (2.2), and Oregon (1.9). The largest increases in initial claims were in Kentucky (+6,716), Ohio (+3,846), Tennessee (+2,411), Illinois (+1,893), and Michigan (+1,564), while the largest decreases were in California (-4,222), District of Columbia (-1,794), and Louisiana (-1,028).

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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