Weekly Jobless Claims Rise as Omicron Cases Reach Record High Levels

Serious pensive Young cook posing wearing protective face mask sitting on the floor outside the restaurant he works that its closed because the pandemic state at home order.
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The U.S. economy might have gotten a message about the impact of the Omicron variant on Thursday, as initial unemployment claims rose for the second straight week amid speculation that the variant might have led to an increase in layoffs.

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In the week ending January 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 230,000, the Labor Department announced. That was up 23,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 207,000. The 4-week moving average was 210,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 204,500.

The latest figures are the highest in two months and came in well above estimates, Bloomberg reported. Its survey of economists predicted 200,000 claims for the week. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal also forecast that new claims would fall to 200,000, according to MarketWatch.

Bloomberg noted that the recent rise in claims could be due to layoffs tied to the surge in Omicron cases. But the increase probably won’t last long, Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said, as the longer-term trend points to companies pushing to keep staff to offset the nation’s continuing labor shortage.

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“The spike in the number of Covid cases is forcing temporary business closures, which likely pushed some affected workers to apply for jobless benefits,” Winger wrote in a note before Thursday’s jobless numbers were released. “Most businesses are open, albeit operating at limited capacity.”

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Meanwhile, continuing claims — or the number of Americans who already collect jobless benefits — fell 194,000 to 1.56 million last week. That was the lowest level since June 1973.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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