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New unemployment claims fall below pre-pandemic levels

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Casey Harper | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – New federal jobs data shows the number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in decades.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released unemployment numbers Wednesday, showing new unemployment claims fell by 71,000 last week. Wednesday's report marked the first time weekly unemployment claims have been better than pre-COVID-19-pandemic levels.

“In the week ending November 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 199,000, a decrease of 71,000 from the previous week's revised level,” DOL said. “This is the lowest level for initial claims since November 15, 1969 when it was 197,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 268,000 to 270,000. The 4-week moving average was 252,250, a decrease of 21,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500.”

The number of ongoing unemployment claims and overall unemployment, though, still remain higher than levels before the pandemic.

“The total number of continued weeks claimed for benefits in all programs for the week ending November 6 was 2,432,281, a decrease of 752,390 from the previous week,” DOL said. “There were 21,111,266 weekly claims filed for benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2020. “

The number of unemployment claims varied across states.

“The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending November 6 were in the Virgin Islands (3.0), Alaska (2.7), District of Columbia (2.7), Puerto Rico (2.7), California (2.6), New Jersey (2.5), Hawaii (2.1), Nevada (2.1), Illinois (1.9), and New York (1.8),” DOL said. “The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 13 were in California (+4,690), Massachusetts (+2,269), Pennsylvania (+1,994), Minnesota (+1,202), and Wisconsin (+907), while the largest decreases were in Kentucky (-8,712), Tennessee (-4,001), Ohio (-3,315), Michigan (-3,230), and Illinois (-1,184).”

President Joe Biden has touted job creation since he took office and celebrated the federal data Wednesday.

“This is a historic jobs recovery: 5.6 million jobs created since I took office and an unemployment rate of 4.6% two full years earlier than experts predicted was possible,” Biden said.

Critics, though, have said Republican governors in red states have led the way in the economic recovery. Red states reduced lockdown measures faster and many refused federal unemployment benefits, which they argued were incentivizing Americans to turn down job opportunities.

“The top 10 states for jobs recovered since the pandemic began and the lowest unemployment rate are all led by Republicans!” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel touted on Twitter.

Republicans also point to other economic problems, such as inflation, which has risen at the fastest rate in decades alongside a significant increase in federal spending.

“Pretty much the only American not concerned about inflation is Joe Biden, whose policies are causing it,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said.