It was a decline compared to the previous week and was slightly better than economists had predicted. Nevertheless, the claims were three and a half times higher than in the same period last year. In general, demands for unemployment remain much higher than historical norms, indicating continued pain in the labor market during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Nancy Vanden Houten, leader of the US economy at Oxford Economics, the holidays and uncertainty over the extension of benefits in the new year may have ended last week.
In addition to regular unemployment claims, another 308,262 employees applied for assistance under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to people who are not eligible for regular state assistance, such as the self-employed and gig workers.
Together, 1.1 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.
“Although the decline in total initial claims is moving in the right direction, it has not fallen below one million since the onset of the crisis,” Hiring Lab economist AnnElizabeth Konkel said in an email.
Meanwhile, 5.2 million workers filed ongoing claims for their second week or more of regular unemployment benefits in the week ending December 19th. On top of that, there are another 4.8 million people in the week of the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program in the week of December 12, which provides benefits when workers have exhausted their state benefits.
In total, 19.6 million Americans in the week ending December 12 submitted some form of ongoing unemployment benefit.
Ten months after the pandemic, millions of workers are still relying on government payments to earn their money after losing their livelihoods to the crisis. For those lucky enough to be back at work, the reduced hours and wages are also worrying.
“While the outlook for the economy later in 2021 is optimistic, the economy and labor market will have to move on a difficult terrain every now and then, and we expect demands to continue,” Vanden Houten wrote in a note to clients.