There are signs everywhere the economy is making a steady recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The stock market has long since recovered all of its losses and moved to new record highs, the TSA is reporting the highest air travel numbers since before the pandemic, and Texas and several other states have fully reopened businesses to full capacity. Nevertheless, the one area of the economy that has not returned to pre-pandemic levels is jobs. This week, first-time unemployment claims rose unexpectedly to about 770,000, after several weeks of modest declines. That leaves the number still about a half-million more than it was before the pandemic shutdowns began early last year.
KTRH Money Man Pat Shinn with Heritage Asset Advisors says the numbers on first-time jobless claims are consistent with the big picture. "We like to look at continuing claims---those are folks who've been collecting unemployment benefits for two weeks or longer---and they're staying stubbornly at about the same level," he tells KTRH.
Still, with COVID vaccinations ramping up and more states and businesses reopening, the long-term outlook is optimistic. "After the Federal Reserve met this week, they gave their projections for unemployment, and they see it coming down by the end of the year," says Shinn. "But, we think it's going to take a couple more months before we start seeing any kind of meaningful decline."
For that "meaningful decline" to happen faster, Shinn believes there needs to be a drastic uptick in economic activity nationwide. "When I communicate with folks living in some of these other states, their kids are not back in school, the businesses are not reopened," he says. "I think it's going to take a number of these other states doing what we see happening in Texas and Florida, and that is reopening the businesses so people can go back to work."