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Jobless Claims Beat Expectations as Labor Market Sheds its Pandemic Woes

As Americans return to travel, entertainment and more, the job market has begun to experience growth and economic recovery in the face of inflation.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week rose from the lowest levels since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

First-time filings for the week ending Nov. 27 totaled 222,000 — less than the 240,000 predicted by Wall Street. Although higher than the 194,000 from the previous week, it is still the lowest since 1969.

In addition to the optimistic outlook for initial claims, ongoing claims fell by another 107,000 now sitting below 2 million for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The last time ongoing claims, which run a week behind the headline number, were below the current 1.96 million was March 14, 2020.

Claims have continually declined as the economy recovers from the pandemic and Americans venture out to travel, shop and eat. Businesses have struggled to keep up with the demand, however, and have reported difficulties in onboarding new employees. Thursday’s report suggests that companies are making an effort to retain the workers they already have.

Total non-farmworker payroll employment rose by 531,000 jobs in October, and the unemployment rate decreased by a 0.2 percentage point to 4.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics October jobs report. This number is expected to top 573,000 in the November report, due on Friday. 

The critical leisure and hospitality sector has led the way by adding 164,000 jobs as Americans returned to eating and drinking establishments. The nation has seen a growth of vacation travel again as COVID numbers fell during the month. For 2021, the sector has reclaimed 2.4 million positions lost during the pandemic.

Other sectors posting solid gains included professional and business services (100,000), manufacturing (60,000), and transportation and warehousing (54,000). Additionally, construction added 44,000 positions, while health care was up 37,000 and retail added 35,000. This growth is a signal of strength in the U.S. economy.

Wages increased 0.4% for the month, in line with estimates, but rose 4.9% on a year-over-year basis, reflecting the inflationary pressures that have intensified through the year. 

The economy is showing stronger signs of shedding its pandemic woes.

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