The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits remained unchanged last week, remaining at an all-time low that reflects the strong recovery in the labor market after the coronavirus recession last year.
Unemployment claims remained at 205,000. The four-week average, which eases week-over-week highs and lows, rose to just over 206,000. The numbers suggest the spread of the omicron variant did not immediately spark a wave of layoffs.
“Fortunately, there is no evidence in this data of a new wave of further job losses,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “The resurgence of the pandemic is affecting the economy. The question is how long and how much, and it (is) too early to know the answers. “
A total of 1.9 million Americans were on traditional unemployment assistance during the week ending December 11.
The number of weekly complaints, a proxy for layoffs, declined steadily for most of the year. Employers are reluctant to lay off workers at a time when it is so difficult to find replacements. The United States had a record 11 million job openings in October, and 4.2 million Americans left their jobs – just after September’s record 4.4 million – because there has so many opportunities.
The labor market has rebounded after the brief but intense coronavirus recession last year. When COVID hit, governments ordered shutdowns, consumers squatted in their homes, and many businesses closed or reduced their hours. Employers cut more than 22 million jobs in March and April 2020, and the unemployment rate climbed to 14.8%.
But massive government spending – and ultimately the rollout of vaccines – brought the economy back. Employers have created 18.5 million jobs since April 2020, still leaving 3.9 million fewer jobs in the United States than before the pandemic. The unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, close to what economists consider full employment.
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