Weekly Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Level Since 1969

The ranks of those submitting jobless claims tumbled to their lowest level in more than 52 years last week, the Labor Department reported this morning. Let’s take a closer look!

November 24, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 199,000 Americans have filed new claims for state unemployment benefits, a decrease of 71,000. This is the lowest level for initial claims since November 15, 1969 when it was 197,000. The previous week’s level was revised up by 2,000 from 268,000 to 270,000. The four-week moving average was 252,250, a decrease of 21,000 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 272,750 to 273,250. The report was released one day early because of the holiday on Thursday.

The Labor Department did not indicate any special factors that caused the stunning fall, which could provide an important signal about a jobs market that has been struggling to come back since the Covid-19 shock in March 2020.

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“Unemployment has fallen so far this year at the fastest rate since the 1950s,” President Joseph R. Biden said in a statement last week. “It’s a jobs recovery that has happened years faster than after the Great Recession of 2008. America is getting back to work.”

“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.

Government relief checks, super-low interest rates and the rollout of vaccines combined to give consumers the confidence and financial wherewithal to start spending again. Employers, scrambling to meet an unexpected surge in demand, have made 18 million new hires since April 2020 and are expected to add another 575,000 this month, according to the Associated Press. Still, the United States remains 4 million short of the jobs it had in February 2020.

Talent Shortages

Companies now complain that they can’t find workers to fill job openings, a near-record 10.4 million in September. Workers, finding themselves with bargaining clout for the first time in decades, are becoming choosier about jobs; a record 4.4 million quit in September, a sign they have confidence in their ability to find something better.

During the week, 40 states reported 334,750 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 41 states reported 151,556 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates were in the Virgin Islands (3.0), Alaska (2.7), District of Columbia (2.7), Puerto Rico (2.7), California (2.6), New Jersey (2.5), Hawaii (2.1), Nevada (2.1), Illinois (1.9), and New York (1.8). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in California (+4,690), Massachusetts (+2,269), Pennsylvania (+1,994), Minnesota (+1,202), and Wisconsin (+907), while the largest decreases were in Kentucky (-8,712), Tennessee (-4,001), Ohio (-3,315), Michigan (-3,230), and Illinois (-1,184).

What’s Ahead

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.

“This recovery is unlike any we have seen before with hiring intent picking up much faster than after the previous economic downturn,” said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup chairman and CEO. “As vaccine rollouts gain momentum and lockdown restrictions ease in many markets, we’re seeing sharp increases in hiring optimism reported by employers. At the same time, some workers are hesitant to re-engage with employers as factors including health concerns and childcare challenges continue. Continued talent shortages mean many businesses are prioritizing retaining and training workers with the skills they need to succeed as the economic recovery continues.”

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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