Working Again: New Jobless Claims Tick Down

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic, with new restrictions on businesses being imposed in several states, the economic recovery continues to inch forward nonetheless. According to the U.S. Labor Department, first-time unemployment claims came in at 712,000 this week, down 68,000 from last week and far better than the 780,000 analysts were predicting. Continuing unemployment claims also fell this week, but remain at a historically high level of about 5.5 million.

Overall, the latest numbers are reason for cautious encouragement, according to Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. "It is the lowest number since the downturn began 37 weeks ago," he says. "So, we'll take progress where we can get it, but we're not at the destination that we want to be at."

While seasonal hiring has helped alleviate some of the long-term job losses in the retail sector, there is still a bumpy road ahead for the Texas oil industry. "The most important thing to watch with respect to oil will be domestic and global demand, and those will come back," says Hamrick. "But it's going to be part of seeing that light at the end of the tunnel with respect to the delivery of save and effective vaccines."

With the first vaccines due out in a matter of weeks, that light at the end of the tunnel is coming into clearer focus. "By the second half of next year and going into the holiday season of 2021, economic activity should really be quite robust," says Hamrick.

Overall, Hamrick tells KTRH he's impressed with how we've kept the economy chugging along despite the pandemic and its restrictions dragging on for months. "If you'd asked people whether they would have been able to accommodate the restrictions and engage in the kinds of behaviors that they have for 37 weeks now, I think most would have said you've got to be kidding me," he says.

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