Wednesday morning’s jobless claim numbers once again illustrated a truism of the last eight-plus months: Economic revival is directly linked with control of the coronavirus. As virus cases and deaths surge across the country, layoffs also ticked up for the second straight week — an ominous sign that the country’s financial recovery may be stalling.
First-time unemployment claims, adjusted on a seasonal basis, stood at 778,000, tens of thousands more than economists had been estimating. The number is up from last week’s (revised) figure of 748,000. The numbers, while well down from the millions of claims seen at the beginning of the pandemic, are still dramatically higher than anything before it. CNN reports that as of early November, more than 20 million Americans were receiving some sort of unemployment benefit.
Wednesday’s numbers aren’t the only concerning data points of late. As the New York Times notes, “consumer confidence fell in November, the Conference Board reported Tuesday, and private-sector data on job postings, hours worked and consumer spending show either a loss of momentum or outright declines in November.”
The overall economy surged dramatically in the second quarter of 2020 after a historic slump caused by the pandemic, and the latest vaccine news offers hope for a return to more normal conditions in 2021. The stock market soared this week, as investors’ fear of a post-election political crisis dissipate. But in the meantime, there are resurgent fears of a “double-dip” recession as the virus continues its march across the country.
A stimulus package that might help head off that possibility — plus give the newly jobless expanded uninsurance benefits — still appears a long way off, with a possible compromise between Democrats and the Republicans in gestational stages. And millions of people are set to lose benefits extended through two programs passed by Congress months ago. Without a further extension, the benefits will expire at the end of the year.