The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in the US unexpectedly rose to the highest level it has touched since mid-October, as an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, impacted the economy’s recovery.
Figures released Thursday by the Labor Department show claims for the week ending Jan. 15 rose to 286,000 from 231,000 the week before that.
It is not yet clear how much the new Ómicron variant will affect the country’s economy, but its effects are already being felt. And it is that airlines have already canceled thousands of flights, Broadway shows are closing and more and more schools are postponing their reopenings.
“Weekly jobless claims are up 55,000 in the most recent week,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.
“Fortunately, Omicron is peaking and if previous patterns hold, (unemployment benefits) claims should fall rapidly in the next two to three weeks,” Frick added.
Continuous claims – that is, the number of people receiving unemployment aid consecutively – increased to 1.6 million, an increase of 84,000 people from the level registered the previous week, according to information from Fox Business.
The Department of Labor report shows that approximately 2.1 million people were collecting unemployment benefits during the week ending January 1, this is an increase of 180,114 from the previous week. By way of comparison, it should be noted that a little over a year ago, approximately 16.94 million people received these benefits.
This means that applications have been slowly falling to near pre-pandemic levels, as the economy recovers and people start to travel more, shop and eat out. .
However, companies have struggled to keep up with demand and have struggled to get new employees.
The Department of Labor reported earlier this month that there were 10.6 million jobs available at the end of November.. Despite a slight decline since October, it’s still a staggeringly high number. And is that this means that there are about 3.7 million jobs available more than the number of unemployed job seekers.
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