One Year Later, Jobless Claims Stuck Above Pre-Pandemic Record

745,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, underscoring the ongoing trials and tribulations of everyday people as Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan works its way through the country’s labyrinthine legislative process.

The market was looking for 750,000, so the headline print isn’t likely to change the narrative either way.

The previous week was revised higher by 6,000 to 736,000.

The four-week moving average sank below 800,000. Obviously, 745,000 is still a terrible number. We’re on the cusp of marking the one-year anniversary of the initial pandemic lockdowns in the US and claims are still above their pre-pandemic record.

Chuck Schumer will spend the next several days trying to get Biden’s stimulus package passed. Once the House clears whatever version comes out of the Senate, the bill will head to Biden’s desk, hopefully in time to avert a lapse in key benefits for the jobless.

Some moderate Democrats suggested the $100 per week hike to the federal unemployment supplement should be scrapped (i.e., that the payments should be kept at $300). It wasn’t clear whether that idea was a demand or merely an attempt by the likes of Joe Manchin to prove how committed they are to centrist politics.

Continuing claims for the week ended February 20 were 4.295 million. That was in line with estimates. The same, familiar chart headers will work (below).

Initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims were up 9,246. Ongoing PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims were 7,328,311 and 4,466,916, respectively, for the week of February 13.

The market was poised to ignore these figures. They were largely consistent with forecasts, underscored the need for stimulus without suggesting the bottom is falling out anew, and came ahead of closely-watched remarks from Jerome Powell (later Thursday) and February payrolls (Friday).

I suppose the only thing I’d add is that it remains manifestly absurd that the richest nation on the planet is allowing this type of joblessness to persist one year on from a public health crisis. It speaks to antiquated notions around federal government financing, legislative paralysis, intractable partisan bickering, and a generalized failure of government.


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