According to the latest unemployment data released by the Department of Labor ahead of Thanksgiving weekend, the number of Americans newly applying for unemployment benefits through state programs crept up ever so slightly for the second week running. After significant improvements in the labor market following the initial shock brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recovery has progressed slower than hoped in recent months, as business across the United States continue to lay off staff in the face of weak demand and continued restrictions.
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While jobless claims are way down from historical highs in late March/early April, the number of weekly initial claims remains elevated to say the least. In the week ended November 21, 778,000 Americans newly applied for unemployment benefits. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly claims had peaked at 695,000 in the fall of 1982, putting the latest numbers in a bleak perspective.
With insured unemployment through regular state programs standing at 6.04 million for the week ended November 7 and the total number of people receiving unemployment aid still above 20 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 in July, 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.” As it stands, it looks like he could be right.
This chart shows weekly initial jobless claims in the United States since January 2020.
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