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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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COPY

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.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Give me a snapshot of the labor market in the U.S.

U.S. job openings in February increased more than expected, according to the Labor Department. Also, the economy added over 900,000 jobs in March. For all of the good jobs news recently, there are still nearly 10 million people who are out of work, and more than 4 million of them have been unemployed for six months or longer. “So we still have a very long way to go until we get a full recovery,” said Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute. She said the industries that have the furthest to go are the ones you’d expect: “leisure and hospitality, accommodations, food services, restaurants” and the public sector, especially in education.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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