By Nathalie Voit
U.S. jobless claims in the week ending Nov. 13 dropped down to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 from a revised 269,000 the week before, data from the Labor Department released Nov. 18 revealed. Unemployment claims are at the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.
In contrast to 2019, unemployment claims are still well above pre-pandemic levels, when the weekly average for jobless aid was 218,000. Nonetheless, the post-pandemic recovery in claims has been more successful than during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, when it took around five years for claims to fall below 300,000 after the end of the recession in mid-2009.
By comparison, the report revealed that it only took about one-and-a-half years for jobless claims to fall below the 300,000 threshold after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020.
Not only did worker filings for unemployment benefits decrease by 1,000 last week, but continuing claims, a proxy for the number of Americans regularly receiving federal benefits, decreased to a pandemic low of 2.08 million from 2.21 million a week before.
The new data arrives amid a flurry of workers quitting their jobs. A report from the DOL released Friday revealed 10.4 million open positions in the U.S. economy as the “quits rate,” or the measure of workers leaving their jobs as a share of overall employment rose to a record high of 3% in September.
Despite the millions of job openings, many employers are having a hard time filling positions. High worker turnover, continuing fears about the COVID-19 virus, and an emboldened labor force have created a challenge for recruiters. Whereas people before would stay in a company for decades, the new phenomena of “job-hopping” has taken root, particularly among young people.
According to the hiring and recruitment platform, about 53% of open roles in October were backfill roles or openings due to employee departures, up from 44% in August. Recruitment to replace former staff last month exceeded hiring for new positions, evidence that employers are continuing to grapple with the employee exodus.
In addition to changing labor dynamics, the pool of available workers has also become smaller due to a record number of women leaving the workforce to look after their children or provide care for elderly or sick relatives.
According to the latest “Women in the Workplace” report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co, the pandemic imposed the heaviest burden on working women. The report revealed one in three women had “considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year, compared with one in four who said this a few months into the pandemic.”
Additionally, four in ten women had considered leaving their company or switching jobs, a testament to the high employee turnover in recent months.
Among those looking for work, employed partners, Covid-19 fears, and care responsibilities were listed as the top reasons for why unemployed individuals weren’t searching harder, job website Indeed.com reported.
“There are lots of workers switching jobs, and they are seeing stronger wage growth because of it,” said Nick Bunker, the economic research director of North America for Indeed.