The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

222,000 Americans filed jobless claims last week, up slightly from last week’s record low

The jobs outlook remained really bright as many employers are desperate to hang onto workers.

"Now Hiring" signs for jobs stand along a road in Londonderry, New Hampshire, U.S., November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
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Some 222,000 people filed for unemployment claims last week, a small increase, after the numbers reached a historic low the week before that.

Overall the portrait is still encouraging: unemployment claims have been falling steadily since the end of September. And the numbers have generally been improving, at times in fits and starts, since the coronavirus upended the labor market in Spring 2020.

Last week the number of new people filing unemployment claims surprised observers after dropping to 194,000 — the lowest number in more than 50 years. Economists cautioned that the drop was likely the product of seasonal adjustments made to the stats that may have been thrown off typical patterns because of the pandemic.

'It's a walkout'

But the news was coupled with other positive indicators that economists said were signs of an economy showing strength.

The trade deficit narrowed in October, while consumer spending increased for the month at the fastest rate since last March, according to reports from the Commerce Department. Taken together, the three reports prompted many economists and firms to revise upward their predictions for economic growth for the rest of the year.

But that was before the drumbeat of bad news began about the Omicron variant, which has raised fears that the world could remain mired in pandemic-era restrictions, behavior and patterns in the face of an potentially more transmissible and even evasive strain of covid-19. Scientists have cautioned that they don’t know enough about the new variant and its behaviors to draw conclusions yet and urged people not to panic.