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U.S. Unemployment Claims Fell Modestly Last Week


#New applications for unemployment assistance fell last week, a sign of modest improvement during a holiday period clouded with uncertainty around impending changes to benefit payments.

#Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits from regular state programs, a proxy for layoffs, declined by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 787,000 in the week ended #Dec. 26, the #Labor #Department said #Thursday. #That marked a second consecutive decline from the three-month high recorded earlier in #December, when virus cases were surging and more jurisdictions were bringing back economic restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus.

#Last week’s level remains higher than any recorded before this year, although it is down sharply from a peak of nearly 7 million in late #March. The four-week average of claims, which smooths volatile data, rose to the highest level since early #October.

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#Early last week, #Congress passed a $900 billion #Covid-19 relief bill to, in part, add $300-a-week supplement for those receiving unemployment benefits and extend two pandemic-specific programs used by about 13 million people. #But then #President

#Trump

said he was displeased with the bill, casting doubt over whether he would sign it into law. #He ultimately did sign the measure on #Dec. 27.

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#What’s your outlook on the job market heading into 2021? #Join the conversation below.

#Weekly jobless claims figures can also be volatile during holiday periods because of challenges with seasonal adjustment.

“Holiday noise and uncertainty about extensions of benefits may have held down claims last week,” #Oxford #Economics economist

#Nancy #Vanden #Houten

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said. #She said claims remain at historically high levels, and there is a risk they could rise in the coming weeks in response to the program extensions and supplemental payments.

“While prospects for the economy later in 2021 are upbeat, the economy and labor market will have to navigate some difficult terrain between now and then,” #Ms. #Vanden #Houten said. #She said high levels of recorded cases and hospitalizations for #Covid-19, along with the discovery of new variants of the disease that appear to be more contagious, will likely hold down the recovery until vaccines become more widely available.

#Other data suggests the broader economic recovery may be slowing. #Household spending declined 0.4% in #November, marking its first retreat in seven months, and household income fell 1.1%, according to the #Commerce #Department. #New- and existing-home sales declined in #November from the previous month.

#Many economists estimate economic growth to have slowed in the final months of 2020, but anticipate a pickup in the economic recovery next year as vaccines are distributed more widely and many households receive a second round of stimulus checks through the #Covid-19 relief bill.

#Continuing claims, a proxy for the number of people collecting unemployment benefits through regular state programs, fell to a seasonally adjusted 5.2 million in the week ended #Dec. 19, from 5.3 million in the previous week, according to the #Labor #Department. #While that is down from a peak of 25.9 million in #May, it is still about three times the pre-pandemic level. The decline likely reflects that some unemployed workers found jobs while others exhausted state benefits.

The new relief law increases unemployment assistance in every state by $300 a week through #March 14 and extended two federal pandemic programs that otherwise would have paid out their final benefits this month.

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#One program provides benefits for the self-employed and others not normally eligible for jobless aid. #Continuing claims in that program fell by more than 800,000 to 8.5 million in the week ended #Dec. 12, according to the #Labor #Department. #Claims for the other program, which offers up to 13 weeks of additional payments for individuals who exhausted other benefits, were about 4.8 million during the same period. #Data for pandemic programs aren’t adjusted for seasonality.

#Both programs were extended until mid-March.

#Many people continue to experience lengthy periods of unemployment.

#An online survey conducted by The #Harris #Poll on behalf of staffing firm #Express #Employment #Professionals found 65% of unemployed adults are getting more discouraged the longer they are out of work. #On average, unemployed adults in the survey applied to 11 jobs over the prior month, but only had one interview, according to the survey taken during the second half of #October released this month.

#John #Trader said he moved into his younger brother’s home in #Atlanta after losing his marketing job in #July. #He said he sent out hundreds of resumes and had interviews with about 10 different companies before he got a job offer on #Dec. 18 with a software development company.

The position doesn’t pay as well, but #Mr. #Trader, 50 years old, said he feels fortunate to be getting back to work.

“I can’t even describe how frustrating it’s been,” #Mr. #Trader said of his job search. #In one case, he said he participated in four interviews and spent 30 hours preparing a project to show a potential employer the kind of work he could do. #He interviewed six times for another position only to be told the company had ultimately decided not to hire anyone.

The labor market recovery since the spring has been uneven across industries. #Restaurants and retail stores in malls are down sharply from where they were last year, while others have grown beyond their pre-pandemic levels.

#Mike #Stanziola,

senior vice president of IT operations for firstPRO #Inc., a staffing agency in #Philadelphia, said #December marked his division’s best month this year, as more companies sought information technology professionals for projects they had previously delayed because of the pandemic.

“Some folks are still hesitant to hire full time, but the work is backing up so they’re onboarding them as contractors,” #Mr. #Stanziola said. #Confidence in full-time hiring is also beginning to grow, he said, but it is still a challenge to recruit tech professionals because job losses in that sector haven’t been as severe.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many #Americans to accept new financial realities. WSJ’s #Shelby #Holliday traveled to a diverse neighborhood in #Philadelphia to learn how neighbors are facing different struggles brought on by the same virus. #Photo: #Adam #Falk/The #Wall #Street #Journal

#Write to #Kim #Mackrael at [email protected]

#Copyright ©2020 #Dow #Jones & #Company, #Inc. #All #Rights #Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



[ source link ]
https://www.wsj.com/articles/weekly-jobless-claims-coronavirus-12-31-2020-11609366589

##Unemployment ##Claims ##Fell ##Modestly ##Week

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