3rd week of increase for jobless claims

The weekly jobless claims in the United States continued to climb, for the third week in a row, and are even at their highest since October, in the midst of the Omicron wave, contradicting analysts who expected a decline. From Jan. 9 to Jan. 15, 286,000 people registered as unemployed to receive benefits, according to Labor Department figures released Thursday.

This is 55,000 more than the previous week, for which registrations have also been revised slightly upwards (231,000 instead of 230,000 initially announced). Analysts, on the other hand, expected a decline, and saw registrations fall to 211,000. Jobless claims have been on the rise since mid-December, despite the labor shortage facing American employers, which is pushing them to avoid laying off their employees.

And the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is one of the explanatory factors put forward. “The rise in recent weeks is likely due to an increase in virus cases“commented Rubeela Farooqi, chief economist for HFE, in a note. “The impact of the virus-related disruptions persists at this time, but listings are expected to drop once these effects wear off. Overall, labor demand remains strong and businesses remain reluctant to lay off workers amid persistent labor shortages“, she anticipates.

The four-week average of registrations also climbed, and stood at 231,000 (+20,000 compared to the previous week). The total number of benefit recipients is also climbing, and the country had 2.1 million recipients in the last week of December, according to the most recent data available, also released on Thursday.

This is 180,114 more than the previous week, but it is much less than the 16.9 million beneficiaries that the country had last year at the same time. In December, the unemployment rate fell to 3.9%, returning close to its pre-pandemic level (3.5%). But job creations have lagged behind, and inequalities are very high.

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