With the pace of vaccination increasing and pandemic restrictions eased, the economy is on the verge of a dynamic recovery. One measure, however, has continued to thwart the resurgence: the number of weekly jobless claims that have been stubbornly high for months, even as businesses reopen and vaccination rates rise.
After the new claims hit a pandemic low in mid-March, initial claims for state unemployment benefits have risen as the impact of the pandemic continues to affect the economy. Last week, the Ministry of Labor announced that a total of 741,000 workers had applied for state unemployment benefits for the first time.
The Department of Labor will publish its latest weekly unemployment claims report on Thursday. If the number of applications falls, confidence in the upturn in the labor market will increase again after the recent bump. However, if it does increase, there will be a strong indication of the ongoing strain on the workforce from the pandemic.
In any case, unemployment claims could remain much higher for the next few months than they were before the pandemic as the labor market adapts to a new normal.
“The labor market conditions for job seekers improved very quickly between January and now,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at the ZipRecruiter construction site. “But there are still major barriers to getting back to work.”
Workplace safety concerns remain particularly among workers who have not yet been vaccinated. Many children still attend schools remotely, making full-time job prospects difficult for their caregivers.
But there is hope on the horizon when these barriers begin to fall. President Biden extended the deadline for states to qualify all adults for vaccination to April 19, and every state has complied. Students who have learned from a distance return to class in earnest.
“This has been the deepest and fastest recession ever, but it will also be the fastest rebound,” said Ms. Pollak. “And I don’t think we should lose sight of that just because some of the measures are a bit persistent.”