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According to the latest unemployment data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday, the number of Americans newly applying for unemployment benefits through state programs fell below one million for the first time since the pandemic hit the U.S. economy with full force in the middle of March. Seasonally adjusted initial claims dropped from 1,191,000 to 963,000 last week, marking a desperately awaited milestone on the long road to recovery.
While the latest trend is certainly a good sign, the number of jobless claims remains historically high. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly claims had peaked at 695,000 in the fall of 1982, putting this week’s good news in a bleak perspective.
With insured unemployment through regular state programs standing at 15.5 million for the week ended August 1 and the total number of people receiving unemployment aid still above 25 million, the jobs crisis is far from over. When asked about his expectation of how many of the latest job losses will turn out permanent in a FOMC press conference last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that it “could be well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” and that “it could be some years before we get back to those people finding jobs.”
This chart shows weekly initial jobless claims in the United States since January 2020.