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    Jobs Report March 2021: Gain of 916,000 as Recovery Sped Up

    The gain of 916,000 was the biggest since August, and unemployment fell to 6 percent. Barring a setback in fighting the virus, the outlook is bullish.The American job market roared back to life in March — and with vaccinations accelerating, businesses reopening and federal aid flowing, the rebound should only get stronger from here.U.S. employers added 916,000 jobs last month, twice as many as in February and the most since August, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 6 percent, its lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic began, and nearly 350,000 people rejoined the labor force.The data was collected early in the month, before most states broadened vaccine access and before most Americans began receiving $1,400 checks as part of the latest federal relief package. It was also before the recent rise in virus cases, which economists warned could slow the recovery if it worsened. But on balance, forecasters are optimistic that hiring will remain strong in coming months.“March’s jobs report is the most optimistic report since the pandemic began,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist for the career site Glassdoor. “It’s not the largest gain in payrolls since the pandemic began, but it’s the first where it seems like the finish line is in sight.”Job growth picked up last monthCumulative change in all jobs since before the pandemic More

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    March 2021 Jobs Report: A Gain of 916,000

    The U.S. jobs rebound picked up steam last month, fueled by the accelerating pace of vaccinations and a new injection of federal aid.Employers added 916,000 jobs in March, up from 416,000 in February and the most since August, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 6 percent, down from 6.2 percent in February.The report came one year after the pandemic ripped a hole in the American labor market. The U.S. economy lost 1.7 million jobs in March 2020 and more than 20 million in April, when the unemployment rate peaked at nearly 15 percent.The job market bounced back quickly at first, but progress began to slow as virus cases surged and states reimposed restrictions on businesses. Over the winter, the recovery stalled out, with employers cutting more than 300,000 jobs in December.Economists said the latest data marked a turning point. Last month was the third straight month of accelerating hiring, and even bigger gains are likely in the months ahead. The March data was collected early in the month, before most states broadened vaccine access and before most Americans began receiving $1,400 checks from the federal government as part of the most recent relief package.“The tide is turning,” said Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist for Bank of America. The report, she said, “reaffirms this idea that the economy is accelerating meaningfully in the spring.”The United States still has millions fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic. Even if employers kept hiring at the pace they did in March, it would take months to fill the gap. And the virus remains a risk. Coronavirus cases are rising again in much of the country as states have begun easing restrictions. If that trend turns into a full-blown new wave of infections, it could force some states to backpedal, impeding the recovery.But few economists expect a repeat of the winter, when a spike in Covid-19 cases pushed the recovery into reverse. More than a quarter of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and more than two million people a day are being inoculated. That should allow economic activity to continue to rebound.“This time is different, and that’s because of vaccines,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the job site ZipRecruiter. “It’s real this time.” More

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    Unemployment Claims Up a Bit; Manufacturing Gains

    Unemployment claims increased slightly last week, but remained near pandemic lows. A manufacturing index rose sharply.A year after they first rocketed upward, jobless claims may finally be returning to earth.More than 714,000 people filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was up slightly from the week before, but still among the lowest weekly totals since the pandemic began.In addition, 237,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers people who don’t qualify for state benefits programs. That number, too, has been falling.Jobless claims remain high by historical standards, and are far above the norm before the pandemic, when around 200,000 people a week were filing for benefits. Applications have improved only gradually — even after the recent declines, the weekly figure is modestly below where it was last fall. Some 18 million people in total are receiving jobless assistance, many of them through programs that extend benefits beyond the 26 weeks that are offered in most states.But economists are optimistic that further improvement is ahead as the vaccine rollout accelerates and more states lift restrictions on business activity. Fewer companies are laying off workers, and hiring has picked up, meaning that people who lose their jobs are more likely to find new ones quickly.“We could actually finally see the jobless claims numbers come down because there’s enough job creation to offset the layoffs,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the job site ZipRecruiter.There are other signs that the economic recovery is gaining momentum. The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its manufacturing index, a closely watched measure of the industrial economy, hit its highest level since 1983 in March. The report’s employment index also rose strongly, a sign that manufacturers are likely to step up hiring to meet rising demand.Economists will get a more complete, albeit less timely, picture of the job market on Friday, when the Labor Department releases data on hiring and unemployment in March. Forecasters surveyed by FactSet expect the report to show that U.S. employers added more than 600,000 jobs last month, the most since October.Even better numbers probably lie ahead. The March data was collected early in the month, before most states broadened vaccine access and before most Americans began receiving $1,400 checks from the federal government as part of the newly passed relief package. Those forces should lead to even faster job growth in April, said Jay Bryson, chief economist for Wells Fargo.“If you don’t get a barnburner in March, I think you’re probably going to get one in April,” he said.The biggest risk to the economy is as it has been for the last year: the coronavirus itself. Virus cases are rising again in much of the country as states have begun easing restrictions. If that upward trend turns into a full-blown new wave of infections, it could force some states to reverse course, which could act as a brake on the recovery, Mr. Bryson warned.But few economists expect a repeat of last winter, when a jump in Covid-19 cases pushed the recovery into reverse. More than a quarter of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and more than two million people a day are being inoculated. That should allow economic activity to continue to rebound.Still, Ms. Pollak cautioned that the job market would not return to normal overnight. Even as many companies resume normal operations, others are discovering that the pandemic has permanently disrupted their business model.“There are still a lot of business closures and a lot of layoffs that have yet to happen,” she said. “The repercussions of this pandemic are still rippling through this economy.” More

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    Why Are Jobless Claims Still High? For Some, It’s the Multiple Layoffs.

    A California study shows the extent of dependence on benefits over the last year and how many people have shuttled in and out of work.Jobs are coming back. Businesses are reopening. But a year after the pandemic jolted the economy, applications for unemployment benefits remain stubbornly, shockingly high — higher on a weekly basis than at any point in any previous recession, by some measures.And headway has stalled: Initial weekly claims under regular and emergency programs, combined, have been stuck at just above one million since last fall, and last week was no exception, the Labor Department reported Thursday.“It goes up a little bit, it goes down, but really we haven’t seen much progress,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist for the career site Indeed. “A year into this, I’m starting to wonder, what is it going to take to fix the magnitude problem? How is this going to actually end?”The continued high rate of unemployment applications has been something of a mystery for many economists. With the pandemic still suppressing activity in many sectors, it makes sense that joblessness would remain high. But businesses are reopening in much of the country, and trends on employment and spending are generally improving. So shouldn’t unemployment filings be falling?New evidence from California may offer a partial explanation: According to a report released Thursday by the California Policy Lab, a research organization affiliated with the University of California, nearly 80 percent of the unemployment applications filed in the state last month were from people who had been laid off earlier in the pandemic, gotten back to work, and then been laid off again.Such repeat claims were particularly common in the information sector — which in California includes many film and television employees who have been sidelined by the pandemic — and in the hard-hit hotel and restaurant industries, as well as in construction.The Policy Lab researchers had access to detailed information from the state that allowed them to track individual workers through the system, something not possible with federal data.California’s economy differs from that of the rest of the country in myriad ways, and the pandemic has played out differently there than in many other places. But if the same patterns hold elsewhere, it suggests that the ups and downs of the pandemic — lockdowns and reopenings, restrictions that tighten and ease as virus cases rise and fall — have left many workers stuck in a sort of limbo.A restaurant may recall some workers when indoor dining is allowed, only to lay them off again a few weeks later when restrictions are reimposed. A worker may find a temporary job at a warehouse, or pick up a few hours of work on a delivery app, but be unable to find a more stable job.“This shows the oscillation of employed, unemployed, employed, unemployed — people cycling back into the system,” said Elizabeth Pancotti, policy director at Employ America, a group in Washington that has been an advocate for the unemployed. “We did not see that in previous recessions.”What that instability will mean for workers’ long-term prospects remains unclear. Economic research has found that extended periods of unemployment can leave workers at a permanent disadvantage in the labor market. But there is little precedent for a period of such prolonged instability.Distributing food in Inglewood, Calif., in January. The pandemic’s economic effects hit Black workers in the state especially hard.Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times“We don’t know what happens if you’re out of work for two months, you come back to work for two months, you’re out of work for two months, you keep going back and forth,” Ms. Pancotti said.The California data shows how the economic effects of the pandemic have been concentrated among certain industries and demographic groups — and how the consequences continue to mount for the most affected workers, even as the crisis eases for many others.Nearly 90 percent of Black workers in the state have claimed unemployment benefits at some point in the pandemic, according to the Policy Lab analysis, compared with about 40 percent of whites. Younger and less-educated workers have been hit especially hard.Those totals include filings under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers people left out of the regular unemployment system, a group that disproportionately includes Black workers. The record-keeping for that program has been plagued by overcounting and fraudulent claims. But even a look at the state’s regular unemployment insurance program, which hasn’t faced the same issues, reveals remarkable numbers: Close to three in 10 California workers have claimed benefits during the crisis, and more than four in 10 Black workers.“That degree of inequality is mind-blowing,” said Till von Wachter of the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the report’s authors.Many of those who lost jobs early in the crisis have since returned to work. But millions have not. The Policy Lab found that nearly four million Californians had received more than 26 weeks of benefits during the pandemic, a rough measure of long-term unemployment.“We have solidly shifted into a world where a large-scale problem of long-term unemployment is now a reality,” Dr. von Wachter said. Black workers, older workers, women and those with less education have been more likely to end up out of work for extended periods.Nationally, nearly six million people were enrolled as of late February in federal extended-benefit programs that cover people who have exhausted their regular benefits, which last for six months in most states. The aid package signed by President Biden last week ensures that those programs will continue until fall, but benefits alone won’t prevent the damage that prolonged joblessness can do to workers’ careers and mental and physical health.“The recovery needs to be on the scale of being a once-in-a-generation economic upswing to really pull those people back into the labor market,” Ms. Konkel said.The latest data provides little sign of that happening. More than 746,000 people filed first-time applications for state unemployment benefits last week, up 24,000 from the previous week, according to the Labor Department. In addition, 282,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.Most forecasters expect the labor market recovery to accelerate in coming months, as warmer weather and rising vaccination rates allow more businesses to reopen, and as the new injection of government aid encourages Americans to go out and spend. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that they expected the unemployment rate to fall to 4.5 percent by the end of the year, a significant upgrade over the 5 percent they forecast three months ago.“We’re already starting to see improvement now, and I think that will start to accelerate fairly quickly,” said Daniel Zhao, an economist at the career site Glassdoor.But government aid can do only so much as long as the pandemic continues to limit consumers’ behavior. The pace of the recovery now, Mr. Zhao said, depends on a factor beyond the scope of normal economic analysis.“The dominating factor right now is how quickly we can get vaccines in arms,” he said. More

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    Unemployment Claims Fall, Fueling Economic Hope

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutGuidelines After VaccinationAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyUnemployment Claims Fall, Fueling Economic HopeAlthough millions remain jobless and layoffs continue, the latest data adds to evidence that distress is on the decline.Diners at a Minneapolis restaurant. Business restrictions across the country have begun to lift and vaccinations have picked up, fueling hopes of an economic resurgence.Credit…Liam Doyle for The New York TimesMarch 11, 2021Updated 1:10 p.m. ETThe second year of the coronavirus pandemic is starting with rising hopes for the economic outlook — and a long way to go.Positive signs are emerging as restrictions on businesses lift and the pace of vaccine distributions ramps up. But millions remain unemployed, and many economists are cautioning that a return to pre-pandemic conditions could take months, if not years.That reality became all the more evident on Thursday, when the Labor Department reported that a total of 709,000 workers filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits in the week that ended March 6. Though the figure was 47,000 lower than the week before — and touching the lowest levels of the last year — it was still extraordinarily high by historical standards.“The story week in and week out is that magnitude steals the show,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the career site Indeed. The report “really paints the picture of long-term joblessness,” she said, adding, “That is the reality for millions of Americans and is going to be a hurdle for the recovery to clear.”All told, there are about 9.5 million fewer jobs than there were a year ago. More than four million people have dropped out of the labor force, a group not included in the most widely cited unemployment rate.“We’re still not yet at the phase of the recovery where we’re seeing the floodgates open up,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist with the career site Glassdoor. “I don’t think it’s quite fair to call what we’ve done so far ‘reopening’ because there’s still a lot of people who are out of work and a lot of businesses that are closed.”On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state unemployment claims last week totaled 712,000, shaking off a surge in the last week of February caused in part by the devastating winter storms in Texas.In addition to the state claims, there were 478,000 new claims last week for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits, an increase of 42,000.The Labor Department report was released a day after Congress gave final approval to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package, which will inject the economy with a fresh surge of federal aid. The legislation, signed by Mr. Biden on Thursday, includes an extension of federal jobless benefits, which could provide a stopgap measure of relief for those still out of work as the labor market begins to heal in earnest after months of uneven improvement.The provisions come at an urgent moment for the millions of jobless: Democrats had been racing to get the bill signed into law before federal unemployment benefits begin to lapse on Sunday. Under its terms, a $300 weekly supplement to other unemployment payments will be extended through Sept. 6. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program will be available for at least 79 weeks, up from 50, and run through Sept. 6.The Coronavirus Outbreak More

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    Biden Presses Economic Aid Plan, Rejecting Inflation Fears

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Jobs CrisisCurrent Unemployment RateWhen the Checks Run OutThe Economy in 9 ChartsThe First 6 MonthsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBiden Presses Economic Aid Plan, Rejecting Inflation FearsDespite a better-than-expected jobs report, administration officials stressed that millions of workers still needed help from a proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package.President Biden continued to press his case for his stimulus plan on Friday after a stronger-than-expected jobs report.Credit…Al Drago for The New York TimesJim Tankersley and March 5, 2021, 6:58 p.m. ETWASHINGTON — With a $1.9 trillion economic aid package on the brink of passing Congress and the pace of vaccinations picking up, some economists, Republican lawmakers and Wall Street traders are increasingly raising a counterintuitive concern: that the economy, still emerging from its precipitous pandemic-induced drop, could be on a path toward overheating.The Biden administration rejected that argument again on Friday. Despite a stronger-than-expected jobs report, the president and his aides said there was still a long way to go to ensure the benefits of the recovery flow to workers hardest hit by the pandemic, who are predominantly people of color.Passing President Biden’s recovery plan, they said, remains essential to a full and equitable recovery.“Black workers are still facing an economic crisis,” Janelle Jones, the chief economist at the Labor Department, said in an interview. “We cannot talk about recovery and taking our foot off the gas while these workers are still facing economic devastation.”For those workers, Ms. Jones said, “It really matters what we do in the next two weeks.”But some Republicans, saying the economy no longer needs an injection of nearly $2 trillion in borrowed money, continued to urge Democrats to pare back the stimulus package, which Senate Democrats have modified slightly in recent days.On Wall Street, there were signs this week that investors are beginning to believe that such a large package could spur some resurgence in inflation, though there is little to suggest that markets anticipate a return to the dangerous levels of the 1970s, as a few prominent economists have warned.Mr. Biden continued to press his case for the full $1.9 trillion plan in afternoon events at the White House, meeting with top economic advisers and then hosting a round-table discussion to build support for the plan.“Today’s jobs report shows that the American Rescue Plan is urgently needed,” the president told reporters before the start of the meeting with aides. He said the jobs gains in February were likely because of a $900 billion relief bill Congress and President Donald J. Trump approved in December, and he warned that without more assistance, further gains “are going to be slow.”“We can’t go one step forward and two steps backward,” Mr. Biden said.In the Senate, lawmakers began voting on a flurry of amendments to the bill, which could pass as soon as Saturday. Democrats huddled to find agreement on last-minute tweaks to the legislation to appease centrists in their caucus.Republicans on Capitol Hill have locked arms against the bill. Some senators say their opposition comes, in part, from fears that Mr. Biden’s plan would pour too much money into a recovery that is accelerating on its own.The Biden plan “risks overheating an already recovering economy,” Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said this week on the Senate floor, “leading to higher inflation, hurting middle-class families and threatening long-term growth.”Mr. Portman cited inflation concerns voiced in recent weeks by the Harvard economist Lawrence H. Summers, a Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and top economic aide to President Barack Obama. In an email this week to reporters, an aide to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, highlighted reports of rising fears of American inflation among top British officials.Mr. Biden has ambitious ideas for other big programs this year, including a major infrastructure package, further fueling concerns about economic overheating. The administration insists those plans would not be inflationary because they would be offset by tax increases on the wealthy and corporations, but some economists and Democrats say they could end up being at least partly financed by deficit spending.Inflation expectations have climbed gradually since the November election, and moved up slightly after a strong jobs report on Friday. Even so, commonly cited measures show that investors are penciling in price gains just a bit above 2 percent in coming years. That is consistent with the Fed’s stated goals, and not the kind of destabilizing, runaway price gains that the economy experienced a generation ago.A closed restaurant in Phoenix this week. The president and his aides said there was still a long way to go to ensure the benefits of the recovery flow to workers hardest hit by the pandemic.Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesStill, the fact that investors are expecting growth to surge this year has mattered for markets.Bond yields have been climbing since the start of 2021, as investors anticipate a little more inflation and a rapid economic bounceback. That adjustment has caused stock prices to drop in recent weeks. Higher interest rates make it more expensive for companies to borrow and can attract money away from the stock market.As investors look for a pickup in growth and slightly faster price increases, watchers of the Federal Reserve have begun to expect that it might begin to slow its big bond purchases, which it has been using to bolster growth, and raise interest rates sooner than had been anticipated.The central bank has promised to leave interest rates near zero until the economy has achieved full employment and inflation is above 2 percent and expected to stay there for some time. If markets expect the economy to reach those goals sooner rather than later, that could be seen as an expression of optimism.“If you look at why they’re moving up, it’s to do with expectations of a return to more normal levels, more mandate-consistent levels of inflation, higher growth, an opening economy,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said of rates during a recent congressional testimony.But markets are forward-looking: The economy has a long way to go before it will be back to full strength. Administration officials have vowed not to be distracted by improvements in high-profile numbers, like overall job growth, and instead keep pouring fuel on the recovery until historically disadvantaged groups have regained jobs, income and the benefits of other measures of economic progress.Job gains last month came in above economists’ forecasts, but it would take more than two years of hiring at the current level to return the labor market to its employment level in early 2020.In addition, while all demographic groups continue to feel economic pain, the fallout has not been evenly spread. Employment for Black workers remains nearly 8 percent below its prepandemic level, while employment for white workers is down about 5 percent. Black workers tend to lose jobs heavily during recessions, then gain them back only after a long stretch of job growth.Ms. Jones, the labor department economist, said the administration was determined to accelerate the recovery for marginalized workers, noting that Black workers, in particular, took years longer to recover from the 2008 financial crisis — a delay that left lasting scars on those households.“Nothing about the state of the world means that Black workers have to face a large amount of labor market slack,” she said. “We can choose the benchmark that we actually want to restore the economy to.”People waiting last month at a food bank in Pflugerville, Texas. The Biden administration says its stimulus package is still necessary to accelerate the recovery for marginalized workers.Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York TimesBut even some economists who have favored substantial government spending in the past, most prominently Mr. Summers and Olivier Blanchard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, have warned that Congress risks overdoing it by pouring so much money into the economy at a time when it is already healing.Mr. Blanchard posted on Twitter on Friday morning, comparing the big fiscal package with a snake swallowing an elephant: “The snake was too ambitious. The elephant will pass, but maybe with some damage.”Mr. Summers warned in a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post that the Biden package is going to pump far more money into the economy than it is missing, arguing that the monthly amount “is at least three times the size of the output shortfall.”One major concern is that as the government pushes money into an economy that does not need so much support, too many dollars will end up chasing too few goods and services.Fed officials do not believe that big spending is going to fundamentally change the way consumers and businesses think about prices. Inflation has been low for decades, and businesses often report that they have little pricing power in a world where technology and globalization makes competition fierce.Inflation is likely to jump temporarily this year as economic data rebounds from its very low readings last year and people spend their savings on missed vacations and restaurant dinners. But Fed officials have said there is little to suggest that such an increase would last.“I think it’s a constructive thing for people to point out potential risks,” Mr. Powell said this week during a question-and-answer session. “But I do think it’s more likely that what happens in the next year or so is going to amount to prices moving up but not staying up — and certainly not staying up to the point where they would move inflation expectations materially above 2 percent.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    February 2021 Jobs Report Is Expected to Show Only Modest Gains

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Coronavirus OutbreakliveLatest UpdatesMaps and CasesRisk Near YouVaccine RolloutNew Variants TrackerAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyFebruary Jobs Report Is Likely to Show Limited Improvement: Live UpdatesFebruary jobs report is expected to show only modest gains.March 5, 2021, 5:19 a.m. ETMarch 5, 2021, 5:19 a.m. ETVolunteers at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix preparing boxes for food donations.Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York TimesThe Labor Department is scheduled to release its monthly gauge of the American labor market on Friday morning. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect only small improvements, estimating a gain of 182,000 jobs and no change in the unemployment rate at 6.3 percent.Roughly 10 million fewer jobs exist today than a year ago, and the January report showed a gain of only 49,000. While economists have offered increasingly optimistic forecasts for growth later in the year, millions of workers are still relying on unemployment benefits and other government assistance. First-time jobless claims also rose last week.Federal Reserve and top administration officials have emphasized that the Labor Department’s figures understate the extent of the damage. More than four million people have quit the labor force in the last year, including those sidelined because of child care and other family responsibilities or health concerns. They are not included in the official jobless count.To carry struggling households and businesses through the coming months, Congress is considering a $1.9 trillion package of pandemic relief.In recent weeks, recruiting sites have had an increase in job postings, but demand remains lopsided. The warehouse, transportation, health care, finance and professional services sectors have shown particular strength. But the parts of the economy hit hardest by the pandemic, like restaurants, travel, salons and entertainment, are still floundering.The February report is also expected to show a decline in state and local government payrolls.“The dominant driver of the labor market right now is the Covid situation and the status of reopenings,” said Robert Rosener, a senior U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley.He added that unusually harsh weather, particularly in the first half of February, right before the government conducted its surveys, could also have depressed hiring last month.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More