This past Thursday, the Labor Department released figures detailing unemployment benefits for the week ending November 27. The latest jobless claims topped out at 222,000; analysts had predicted the number would be 240,000. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits tops the lowest level of applicants since the beginning of the pandemic.
Mick Loewengart, managing director at E*Trade Financial, pointed to the possible effect of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus on these latest jobless claims. “While the backdrop of uncertainty regarding the omicron (variant) isn’t helping the market, we’re getting some relatively positive news . . .”
Loewengart went on to say that since the variant has only come to public light within the last week, that it is still too soon to know exactly what effect omicron will have on the labor market. So far, two cases of the new variant have been reported in the United States, but there are at least 65,000 new cases of COVID-19 reported each day.
Another figure released by the Labor Department gives some hope to the economic struggles of the country. The number of continuing claims (of unemployment) fell to 1.956 million for the week of November 27. This was a decrease of 107,000 from the week of November 20. Those numbers are the lowest for continued jobless claims since March 2020, when the number reported on March 14 was 1.77 million.
The Labor Department’s figures also highlighted the number of Americans who are collecting jobless benefits. On the week ending November 13, approximately 2.3 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits. This is an increase of . 21,564 from the week of November 6 of this year. However, at around this same time last year, those receiving unemployment benefits numbered around 20.7 million.
As Americans and the economy begin to return to pre-pandemic “normals” – shopping, eating out, and traveling – jobless claims have continuously declined. The economy is slowly recovering from the pandemic; however, businesses are still reeling from some of the effects of shut-downs and rapidly rising inflation. Businesses report difficulty keeping up with the increased demand, and not only are employers having difficulty bringing in new hires, but there is also problems where keeping established employees is concerned.
Other Labor Department figures show that at the end of September 2021, there were 10,4 million jobs open across the United States. This figure was similar to numbers released in August 2021; these numbers show that there are about 3 million more available jobs than unemployed Americans who are looking for work.
These numbers do not include possible seasonal openings of jobs; many businesses hire in mid-to-late November to ease the onslaught of shoppers during the holiday season. These seasonal positions have not been added to the number of open jobs as of yet; by the end of January, jobless numbers could rise sharply at the end of the holidays.