Feb 5, 2021 - Economy

At least 1 million Americans have filed for unemployment every week for 46 weeks

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 1 million Americans filed first-time unemployment claims for the 46th consecutive week last week, the Labor Department reported.

Why it matters: There is no historical precedent for the ongoing rate of job losses in the U.S.

  • The country is now just six weeks from going a full year with more than a million people filing for unemployment every week.
  • Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. had seen 1 million unemployment claims reported just once in the history of the Labor Department's data — the week ending Jan. 9, 1982, when 1,073,500 claims were filed.

The intrigue: While the unemployment rate has continued to decline since the middle of 2020, the number of companies reporting layoffs has been increasing in recent months as has the number of people filing for unemployment benefits.

  • Job cuts in January increased from December, which saw an increase from November, according to the latest report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
  • The firm counted 2.3 million job cuts in 2020, but only about half were due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The last word: "It's hard to understate the extreme disruption that is still ongoing in the labor market," MacroPolicy Perspectives president Julia Coronado tells Axios.

  • "For almost a year initial claims for unemployment benefits have exceeded the highest levels seen in the Great Recession."
  • "Net job creation has slowed ... and it is way too soon to settle into a slower pace of job creation given the deep hole we are still in. At this rate, it will take many years just to restore what was lost let alone add new jobs for a growing population."
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