Unemployment Claims Falls to Lowest Level Since Start of Pandemic

Experts see a major new trend in the workplace: employees are in the driver’s seat and are putting pressure on employers to give them flexibility, competitive pay and faster hiring decisions. Companies are listening by getting more creative in how they attract – and retain – their talent. Will the workplace ever be the same again? Highly unlikely, say recruiters. Let’s take a closer look.

September 9, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 310,000 Americans have filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020, when it was 256,000. Claims were expected to total 335,000 for the week ended Sept. 4, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The previous week’s level was revised up by 5,000 from 340,000 to 345,000. The four-week moving average was 339,500, a decrease of 16,750 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 1,250 from 355,000 to 356,250. The spread of the delta variant has put renewed pressure on the economy and the job market. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. economic activity “downshifted” in July and August, in part because of a pullback in dining out, travel and tourism related to concerns about the delta variant.

In addition, last month’s employment only rose by 235,000 as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. So far this year, monthly job growth has averaged 586,000. In August, notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, private education, manufacturing, and other services. Employment in retail trade declined over the month. The number of unemployed persons edged down to 8.4 million, following a large decrease in July. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remained above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million.

During the week, 47 states reported 5,090,524 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 47 states reported 3,807,646 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Puerto Rico (4.8), District of Columbia (4.0), New Jersey (3.6), California (3.4), Illinois (3.3), New York (3.0), Rhode Island (3.0), Connecticut (2.9), Hawaii (2.6), and the Virgin Islands (2.6). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Missouri (+7,182), Ohio (+5,563), New York (+3,776), Tennessee (+1,854), and Florida (+1,723), while the largest decreases were in California (-7,009), Illinois (-6,712), Virginia (-4,146), New Jersey (-2,496), and Oregon (-1,686).

Looking Forward

Employers in 32 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed expect an increase in payrolls during the next three months, while three percent expect to trim payrolls and 63 percent anticipate no change, according to the latest “Employment Outlook Survey,” released by ManpowerGroup. “Employers are ready to bring their workers back as restrictions lift and America gets ready to work,” said Becky Frankiewicz ManpowerGroup president, North America. “Yet childcare challenges, health concerns and competition mean demand still outstrips supply which is dampening the ‘big return’ of the American workforce. It’s a worker’s market and employees are acting like consumers in how they are consuming work – seeking flexibility, competitive pay and fast decisions.” Now is the time for employers to get creative to attract talent, she said, “and to hold onto the workers they have with both hands.”

According to the study, payroll gains were expected in all 12 U.S. industry sectors during the third quarter of 2021: leisure and hospitality (+41 percent), wholesale and retail trade (+29 percent), education and health services (+27 percent), transportation & utilities (+26 percent), durable goods manufacturing (+25 percent), nondurable goods manufacturing (+25 percent), professional and business services (+21 percent), construction (+19 percent), information (+18 percent), other services (+16 percent), financial activities (+15 percent) and government (+15 percent).

ManpowerGroup interviewed over 45,000 employers in 43 countries and territories on hiring prospects in the third quarter of 2021. All participants were asked, “How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of September 2021 as compared to the current quarter?” Interviewing was carried out during the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey findings for the third quarter of 2021 reflected the impact of the global health emergency, and the ongoing economic restrictions in many countries.

Employers anticipated payroll gains in 42 of the 43 countries and territories surveyed by ManpowerGroup for the July to September period, while flat hiring activity was expected in one.

Related: Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal

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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