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Jobless claims are still higher than during the Great Recession a year after the pandemic started

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Economists, politicians and workers expect it to continue vaccine deployment and warmer climate allowing more outdoor social activities will help the economy heal at a faster rate in the coming months.

But for now, the improvements are still a little harder to come by.

Last week, 770,000 Americans filed initial claims for deseasonalized unemployment benefits, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. It was up from the previous week and 70,000 more claims than economists had expected. It was also nearly three times as many claims as the same week last year, just before pandemic layoffs sparked benefit claims.

In addition, 282,394 applied for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, open to self-employed workers. In total, more than a million people applied for benefits for the first time last week, with no seasonal adjustments.

Ongoing claims, which account for people who have applied for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 4.1 million adjusted for seasonal changes.

In all, more than 18 million American workers received benefits under various government programs in the week ending February 27th.

Where have the jobs gone?

Last spring, The United States laid off more than 22 million jobs. Many of these people have been able to return to work as the economy gradually reopened, but the nation continues to fall by 9.5 million jobs compared to February last year.
Long-term unemployment has risen and economists worry because people who have lost their jobs and can’t find their way back it will be permanently detached from the labor market.

Kirsten Combs, of Virginia, is one of the workers who has been out of work throughout the pandemic. After being retired from her job as general manager at Visionworks optics distributor last March, she was fired in July.

“This is an industry that was already struggling before the pandemic, and now stores are reducing staff size and payroll budgets to try to make up for part of what they lost,” he told CNN Business. That’s why “jobs are scarce or salaries are much lower than before the pandemic, and I was already living payroll to payroll,” he said.

“I guess I’d just say I never imagined being in a position like this and finding myself unemployed for a year,” Combs added. “I am very grateful for the encouragement and unemployment that has been provided so far, but it is not enough.”

Help is on its way. The evil remains

The latest stimulus package includes another round of stimulus checks for people who meet the requirements, as well as an extension to pandemic unemployment benefits.

Kim Mitcham of North Carolina was working on early childhood education for the Iredell County Alliance for Toddlers until the pandemic hit, passed online school and finished with a job he had for a decade.

“I loved my job,” he told CNN Business. And even though he has sent dozens of copies of his resume, he is now unemployed.

“I’m depressed and anxious. And I feel lost and alone,” Mitcham said.

The employment crisis remains severe in some industries and demographic groups.

Last month’s work report showed that while the white unemployment rate continued to improve, the unemployment rate for black Americans actually increased.

Sectors that depend on meeting people, such as the hospitality industry and travel, continue to hurt and so do the people who worked there.

The US labor market is still a long way from its pre-pandemic strength.

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