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Unemployment claims are down, yet job openings are still unfilled

Virus Outbreak California Jobs
Posted at 6:21 PM, Nov 19, 2021

Thursday's unemployment report from the Labor Department shows claims dropped closer to pre-pandemic levels.

It was also the lowest level for initial claims since early March 2020. Initial claims decreased by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 for the second week of November.

“For the unemployment claims numbers, we definitely have seen a drop in recent times and that could be positive to the degree that it’s reflected of more people either not losing their jobs, or moving from the unemployed category to the employed category,” said John Quinterno, a visiting professor of practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Quinterno said the numbers reflect the pandemic.

“The economy’s trajectory is intertwined with the pandemic trajectory,” he said.

Unemployment claims are trending down, yet a lot of jobs in certain industries like hospitality and travel are still going unfilled.

“The jobs that are open are in a place where the labor doesn't want to move. And I think that is the reason why we are having some disequilibrium in the labor market,” said Kishore Kulkarni, an economics professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Kulkarni said workers have changed what they want out of a job.

“The labor is not really interested in doing the on-site job. They are more used to doing work from home. They understand that the cost of going to the onsite job, they have to have vaccination, they have to have a mask on all eight hours of the day,” Kulkarni said.

And there are fewer workers to fill the roles in the first place.

“Going back to February 2020, there are still about 4.5 million fewer workers in the labor force than there were when we started, so folks have exited,” Quinterno said.

Quinterno said that could be due to a number of factors like retirement, health risks, and childcare.

So what can people expect moving forward?

“We need to first get the public health side, the pandemic side, under control. Otherwise, we’ll just continue to be riding these waves of a few months of progress when case numbers go down, and then we’ll have more hardship when the case numbers go back up,” Quinterno said.

Kulkarni said it’s impossible to predict, but the progress of the pandemic will be a good indicator.