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

Another 777,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week. CNN's Christine Romans reports.

Posted: Mar 19, 2021 4:40 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2021 4:40 AM

A year after the pandemic shut down the US economy, America's workers are still hurting. For the past 12 months, first-time claims for jobless benefits have been higher than during the worst moments of the Great Recession.

Economists, politicians and workers alike are hoping that the continued vaccine rollout and warmer weather that allows more outdoor social activities will help the economy heal at a faster pace in the coming months.

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

Last week, 770,000 Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. It was an increase from the prior week and 70,000 claims more than economists had expected. It was also nearly 3 times as many claims as in the same week last year, just before the pandemic layoffs made benefit claims skyrocket.

Claims fell to their lowest level of the pandemic last November, at 711,000.

On top of that, 282,394 filed for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program open to the self-employed and gig workers last week. Added together, more than 1 million people filed for first-time benefits last week, without seasonal adjustments.

Continued claims, which count people who have filed for benefits for at least two weeks in a row, stood at 4.1 million adjusted for seasonal swings.

In total, more than 18 million American workers received benefits under the government's various programs in the week ended February 27.

Where have the jobs gone?

Last spring, America shed more than 22 million jobs. Many of these people have been able to go back to work as the economy gradually reopened, but the nation still remains down 9.5 million jobs compared to February last year.

Long-term unemployment is way up and economists worry that people who have lost their jobs and can't find a way back will be permanently detached from the labor market.

Kirsten Combs from Virginia is one of the workers who has been jobless throughout the pandemic. After being furloughed from her job as a general manager at optical retailer Visionworks last March, she was laid off in July.

"This is an industry that was already struggling prior to the pandemic, and now stores are reducing staff size and payroll budgets to try to make up some of what they lost," she told CNN Business. That's why "jobs are scarce or salaries are much lower than they were before the pandemic, and I was already living paycheck to paycheck," she said.

"I guess I would just say I never imagined I'd be in a position like this and find myself unemployed for a year," Combs added. "I'm so grateful for the stimulus and unemployment that has been provided to date, but it's not enough."

Help is on the way. The hurt remains

The latest stimulus package includes another round of stimulus checks for qualifying individuals, as well as an extension to pandemic unemployment benefits.

Kim Mitcham from North Carolina was working in kids education for the Iredell County Partnership for Young Children until the pandemic hit, moving schooling online and ending a job she had for a decade.

"I loved my job," she told CNN Business. And even though she's sent out dozens of copies of her resume, she's still unemployed now.

"I am depressed and anxious. And, I feel lost and lonely," Mitcham said.

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

Last month's jobs report showed that while the White unemployment rate continued to improve, the jobless rate for Black Americans actually rose.

Sectors that rely on people coming together, such as hospitality and travel, are still hurting and so are the people who used to be employed in them.

America's labor market is still a long way from its pre-pandemic strength.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 912370

Reported Deaths: 9506
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1780492023
Ramsey736781043
Dakota67355574
Anoka63852570
Washington40349356
Stearns33475276
St. Louis29443403
Scott25842181
Wright25830216
Olmsted22258128
Sherburne18919126
Carver1661066
Clay12033104
Blue Earth1144868
Rice11410138
Crow Wing11170122
Chisago992378
Kandiyohi9800106
Otter Tail9758127
Benton9018125
Beltrami816094
Goodhue805597
Douglas7849100
Itasca769597
Mower731249
McLeod710983
Winona708657
Isanti697883
Steele682731
Morrison671579
Becker627174
Polk599484
Freeborn559646
Carlton543474
Mille Lacs529474
Lyon527261
Nobles524754
Nicollet521160
Pine512642
Cass500553
Todd490743
Brown469757
Le Sueur457733
Meeker431457
Martin385843
Wabasha373610
Waseca372332
Dodge359811
Hubbard354749
Roseau315531
Fillmore304315
Wadena301740
Redwood281245
Houston270717
Renville268051
Faribault257032
Pennington251030
Sibley251017
Kanabec248136
Cottonwood229232
Aitkin221550
Chippewa219442
Pope206710
Watonwan197420
Yellow Medicine187723
Rock177428
Koochiching176023
Swift172622
Stevens167011
Jackson160816
Clearwater157520
Marshall153122
Murray151811
Pipestone149529
Lake132224
Lac qui Parle122125
Wilkin120616
Mahnomen105914
Norman10489
Grant101110
Big Stone9465
Lincoln8745
Kittson73023
Red Lake71310
Unassigned629124
Traverse6056
Lake of the Woods5255
Cook3070

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 523052

Reported Deaths: 7289
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk80319799
Linn32142424
Scott26637292
Black Hawk21974378
Woodbury20490258
Johnson19778105
Dubuque18515241
Pottawattamie15890213
Dallas15320113
Story1380258
Warren8450104
Cerro Gordo7964123
Clinton7725114
Webster7326122
Des Moines7098105
Marshall669093
Unassigned66470
Muscatine6645117
Wapello6441144
Jasper619591
Sioux610177
Lee5908105
Marion557897
Buena Vista502149
Plymouth488388
Henry418655
Benton404859
Jones404862
Bremer395372
Washington391463
Boone389739
Carroll367755
Mahaska365365
Crawford353747
Dickinson314655
Jackson307747
Buchanan305741
Clay295536
Delaware294654
Kossuth289077
Fayette286353
Hardin284353
Tama279777
Page272533
Wright266149
Cedar265527
Hamilton259857
Winneshiek258143
Floyd255449
Clayton244459
Poweshiek237243
Madison234525
Harrison234379
Cass233466
Butler232744
Iowa229634
Jefferson223043
Mills220930
Winnebago215938
Hancock214639
Cherokee211347
Lyon206142
Appanoose205357
Allamakee203955
Calhoun196919
Shelby196442
Union191141
Humboldt185130
Grundy183637
Franklin183029
Mitchell182043
Chickasaw178922
Emmet178246
Louisa176953
Sac171026
Guthrie168137
Montgomery161745
Clarke160829
Keokuk150839
Palo Alto150532
Howard146824
Monroe142739
Ida130141
Greene127517
Davis124625
Lucas124426
Monona122939
Worth12139
Pocahontas120724
Adair114337
Osceola104818
Decatur101913
Taylor98514
Fremont95913
Van Buren93222
Wayne84525
Ringgold76729
Audubon74917
Adams5748
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