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Bureau of Labor Statistics. Axios Visuals.

The last major economic datapoint of the Trump era is out.

Driving the news: The economy ended the Trump years with an unemployment rate of 6.3%. That's a lot lower than the pandemic-induced high point of 14.8% in April, but still well above the 4.7% unemployment that Barack Obama left behind.

Why it matters: Former President Trump inherited a flourishing labor market. He's handing President Biden one that has a ways to go before recovering from an unprecedented shock.

By the numbers: When Trump took office, the economy had 145.6 million jobs. The legacy he leaves Biden, as measured during the week of Jan. 11: 3 million fewer jobs, and a labor force of 160 million people that's 4.5 million people smaller than it was four years ago.

Flashback: Unemployment hit a 50-year low while Trump was in office. Jobless rates for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians also hit record lows.

  • This was a big deal: Policymakers said the prolonged low unemployment rate helped "first fired, last hired" groups that benefit most from a tight labor market.

Yes, but: The strong labor market was not robust enough to survive the combination of a pandemic and a weak federal response. The number of jobs in the U.S. fell by more than 20 million in April alone, and as of January remains about 10 million jobs below its all-time high.

  • At January's pace of 49,000 jobs per month, it would take 200 months — almost 17 years — to regain the level we saw a year ago.

What's next: The Biden administration is banking on a massive relief bill to help shore up the labor market — and the broader economy.

What to watch: Unemployment could fall to 5% by year-end if Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package passes, economists at S&P Global predicted this week.

  • But even without it, the CBO says the jobless rate will drop to 5.3% by Q4 2021 — though it’ll be another three years before all the jobs lost are fully recovered.

The bottom line: More than 1 million Americans have filed for unemployment in each of the past 46 weeks. We're still very much in the middle of a jobs crisis.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Feb 5, 2021 - Economy & Business

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

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."
Updated Feb 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden after jobs report: "We can't do too much here — we can do too little"

President Biden seized on January's anemic jobs report Friday to argue for his $1.9 trillion relief package, while also bracing the public for the long road to a full economic recovery and robust job growth.

The latest: Biden insisted in a speech from the White House that he would not be cutting the size of the $1,400 per person stimulus checks included in his proposal.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."