COVID & Unemployment

After nearly a year, weekly unemployment claims remain high

Mitchell Hartman Mar 4, 2021
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Every week since the pandemic shutdowns started in March 2020, there have been more new unemployment claims filed than in any single week during the Great Recession. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

After nearly a year, weekly unemployment claims remain high

Mitchell Hartman Mar 4, 2021
Heard on:
Every week since the pandemic shutdowns started in March 2020, there have been more new unemployment claims filed than in any single week during the Great Recession. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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The latest report on unemployment claims from the Department of Labor shows the number of Americans applying for benefits edged higher last week to 745,000.

That’s ahead of the February jobs report on Friday.

The weekly jobless claims data has bounced around a bit, but the bottom line is unemployment claims have been historically high for going on a year.

Every week since the pandemic shutdowns started in March 2020, there have been more new unemployment claims filed than in any single week during the Great Recession.

Mark Hamrick at Bankrate said the level of job loss week after week is alarming. “Not only have these claims remained quite elevated, historically, but there is the duration of this, because we are now in the 50th week of this economic stress,” he said.

These persistently high jobless claims indicate a lot of labor market volatility, said Andrew Stettner at the Century Foundation, as employers alternately cut back and expand in the pandemic.

Here’s what that means for workers: “I got back to work — either at the old job or at the new job — but then this week didn’t have any work, or I had my hours reduced, and so I’m filing for unemployment,” Stettner said.

Stettner predicted that this kind of employment churn will continue until vaccination is widespread enough that businesses and schools can reopen and stay open.

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