745,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, labor market remains soft

Weekly unemployment claims filings increased slightly last week, another signal that while the economy slowly reopens, the labor market remains soft. The U.S. Department of Labor reports,

In the week ending February 27, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 745,000, an increase of 9,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 6,000 from 730,000 to 736,000. The 4-week moving average was 790,750, a decrease of 16,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised down by 250 from 807,750 to 807,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.0 percent for the week ending February 20, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending February 20 was 4,295,000, a decrease of 124,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 4,419,000. The 4-week moving average was 4,448,000, a decrease of 99,000 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 4,547,000.

The Associated Press writes,

Though the pace of layoffs has eased since the year began, they remain high by historical standards. Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession…

Restrictions on businesses and the reluctance of many Americans to shop, travel, dine out or attend mass events have weighed persistently on the job market. Job growth averaged a meager 29,000 a month from November through January, and the nation still has nearly 10 million fewer jobs than it did in February 2020. Though the unemployment rate was 6.3% in January, a broader measure that includes people who have given up on their job searches is closer to 10%.

“The source of all labor market damage continues to be COVID-19,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. “Increased vaccine distribution is promising, since the public health situation must improve for there to be a full economic recovery. When we completely return to ‘normal’ is still unknown.”

Soon, please.