Key Highlights

  • New unemployment claims jump to 1.15M during first full week of new year
  • Additional 284,000 claims filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

The COVID pandemic continues to play havoc on the job market as infections rage around the country. During the first full week of the new year, new claims for state unemployment benefits sharply increased +24% to 1.15M, according to the US Department of Labor. On top of that, some 284,000 freelancers, part-time workers and self-employed people filed new claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance federal relief program. These new federal relief claims increased an eye-popping +75%.

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The jobs market backdrop for these increased unemployment and relief claims is no better. As we reported last week, the government indicated that during the month of December, the economy shed 140,000 jobs. This drop was the first since last spring’s historical job losses

Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor, said, ”We know that the pandemic is worsening, and with the jobs report last week, we can see that we’re in a deep economic hole and digging in the wrong direction.”

It’s true that the labor market has rebounded since the initial job losses in the spring of 2019 when we lost approximately 22M, but 10-11M of those jobs remain lost today, nine months after COVID’s initial assault..

Ann Elizabeth Konkel, an economist with Indeed, said, “compared to then (last spring), we are doing better. But compared to the pre-COVID era, we still have so far to go.”

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Still, economists and analysts remain optimistic about the country’s economic outlook in the future. Increasing vaccination rates are central to that optimism…when COVID infections begin to fall, restrictions on businesses will ease and consumer activity, two-thirds of our economy, will rise. Additionally, Wall Street watchers and economists alike are betting that the newly proposed Biden administration’s stimulus relief package will put money into the pockets of people, schools, public health providers, state coffers, etc. that will hasten economic recovery, jump-start job numbers boost and increase consumer confidence and consumption.

Thanks to The New York Times and National Public Radio.

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