Unemployment Claims Are Rising as the Pandemic Surges

The jobs crisis in the U.S. is worsening as weekly unemployment claims reached a five-month high, according to new unemployment numbers released by the Department of Labor.

Almost 1.4 million people filed initial jobless claims for the week ending January 9th, which is many more than economists expected.

“The rise and level of new unemployment claims is shocking,” Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst, told Yahoo! Finance on Thursday. “This reminds us that the economic crisis has not gone away, far from it, at a time when multiple crises have been vying for our attention.”

The number of continued jobless claims also exceeded economists’ expectations, reaching nearly 5.3 million compared to the expected 5 million.

As of the end of last month, there were still 9.8 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were before the pandemic.

The problem is getting worse. The economy lost a net 140,000 jobs in December, even after you adjust for seasonal trends. The losses hit hardest among women of color, who were more likely to get laid off in December than hired. Meanwhile, both white men and women made gains, CNN reports.

That is because women of color work disproportionately in the sectors of the economy that have been most affected by the pandemic — retail, hospitality, and education — and in roles that are not conducive to working from home. Many working mothers were also forced to exit the workforce to care for their families as schools and daycares remain closed.

“Those sectors are less likely to have flexibility, so when employers are inflexible or women can’t come to work because of caregiving responsibilities — they have to exit the workforce,” C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told CNN.

While last week’s job losses are nowhere near the levels seen at the outset of the pandemic, they are at their highest since the summer, and the U.S. is on track to lose jobs for the month. President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated next week, has promised to create millions of jobs, including 10 million clean energy jobs, but economists warn that it may take the economy years to fully recover.

And, of course, Biden’s ability to act on his plans may be hampered by Republicans in Congress, who fought President Obama ‘s attempts to revive the at the height of the great recession in 2009.

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