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Weekly Jobless Claims Fall to Pandemic-Era Low

After surging to a series high of 6.2 million weekly claims in April 2020, initial filings have fallen steadily, aside from several minor upticks, though they remain well above the pre-pandemic weekly average of around 220,000.

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This story originally appeared on The Epoch Times

The number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment fell to a pandemic-era low last week, adding to evidence of continued labor market recovery.

First-time filings for unemployment insurance, a proxy for layoffs, came in at 348,000 for the week ending Aug. 14, a drop of 29,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 377,000, the Labor Department said in a statement (pdf).

After surging to a series high of 6.2 million weekly claims in April 2020, initial filings have fallen steadily, aside from several minor upticks, though they remain well above the pre-pandemic weekly average of around 220,000.

“Some much needed good news is found in jobless claims with fresh pandemic lows notched both for new and continuing claims,” Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

Continuing claims, which represent the number of people collecting unemployment benefits after earlier making an initial filing, fell by 79,000 last week to 2.8 million. That’s the lowest level since March 14, 2020, when it stood at 1.77 million.

While the unemployment numbers are encouraging, they indicate that the labor market has further to go before making a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels.

“Pointing to continuing challenges, some 11.7 million Americans were receiving some form of unemployment assistance as of the latest snapshot,” Hamrick said. “This is a reminder of further healing that’s still needed.”

Another encouraging sign for the jobs market was the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), released on Aug. 9, which shows that job openings in the United States surged to a record high of 10.1 million in June. However, hiring lagged behind that figure by more than 3 million, painting a picture of an economic recovery being held back by hiring difficulties, especially among small businesses.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) July jobs report found that 49 percent of small business owners reported job openings that couldn’t be filled—a 48-year record high.

“Small business owners struggled to find qualified workers for their open positions, which has impaired business activity in the busy summer months,” NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “Owners are raising compensation to the highest levels in 48 years to attract needed employees.”

Hiring difficulties have hit smaller business bottom lines especially hard. While large corporations such as Target have recently posted forecast-beating earnings and reported little difficulty attracting talent, a recent survey by Salesforce (pdf) shows that 53.3 percent of small and medium-sized businesses said staffing issues have been a drag on revenues. For those businesses that said hiring woes were pressuring profits, 56.6 percent reported a hit to revenues of at least 11 percent.

While economic output has fully bounced back to its pre-pandemic levels, the employment recovery is trailing. After shedding 22.4 million jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, the U.S. economy has recovered about 15.6 million jobs since May 2020. 

By Tom Ozimek

 

Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'

The Epoch Times

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