National and state unemployment claims fall again; employers report hiring challenges. Vaccinations urged to boost recovery.

Unemployment claims fell again last week, nationally and here in Washington. The U.S. Department of Labor reports,

In the week ending May 29, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 385,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020 when it was 256,000. The previous week’s level was revised down by 1,000 from 406,000 to 405,000. The 4-week moving average was 428,000, a decrease of 30,500 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week’s average was revised down by 250 from 458,750 to 458,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.7 percent for the week ending May 22, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

And the state Employment Security Department reports,

During the week of May 23 – May 29, there were 10,085 initial regular unemployment claims (down 13.6 percent from the prior week) and 381,640 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories (down 8.4 percent from the prior week) filed by Washingtonians, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).  

  • Initial regular claims applications are now 68 percent below weekly new claims applications during the same period last year during the pandemic.
  • The 4-week moving average for initial claims remain elevated at 14,494 (as compared to the 4-week moving average of initial claims pre-pandemic of 6,071 initial claims) and remains at similar levels of initial claims filed during the Great Recession.
  • Initial claims applications for regular benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) as well as continued claims for regular benefits all decreased over the week.
  • Decreases in layoffs in Educational Services, Retail trade and Health Care and Social Assistance contributed to the decrease in regular initial claims last week.

Add to these indicators of economic recovery the report from payroll processor ADP that the private sector added 978,000 jobs in May

Then there’s this: NFIB reports nearly half of small businesses have unfilled job openings

A record-high 48% of small business owners in May reported unfilled job openings (seasonally adjusted), according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. May is the fourth consecutive month of record-high readings for unfilled job openings and is 26 points higher than the 48-year historical reading of 22%.

“Small business owners are struggling at record levels trying to get workers back in open positions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Owners are offering higher wages to try to remedy the labor shortage problem. Ultimately, higher labor costs are being passed on to customers in higher selling prices.”

Sixty-one percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in May. Owners have plans to fill open positions with a seasonally adjusted net 27% planning to create new jobs in the next three months.

More coverage of the employment picture in The Seattle Times and from the Associated Press.

All signs point to economic recovery. But, as Association of Washington Business president Kris Johnson writes, there’s more to be done

One of the most important ways employers are continuing to lead is by encouraging as many people as possible to get vaccinated. Some of the more creative incentives have captured headlines, like Krispy Kreme giving away doughnuts to vaccinated customers and Budweiser offering to buy you a beer. Here in Washington, employers are also stepping up to provide incentives for their employees and the public to receive a vaccine.

The Association of Washington Business is working to get more people vaccinated by partnering with the state Department of Commerce and local chambers of commerce to distribute gift cards to those who receive a vaccine. By working with chambers in communities of every size, in every part of Washington, the effort will ensure that all Washingtonians have an opportunity to protect themselves and their loved ones.

It’s a win-win proposition, too. By working with local chambers of commerce, the effort not only incentivizes people to protect themselves and their loved ones, but it also helps the local economy as folks are encouraged to spend the gift card at a small business.

Yes, a win-win.