rose last week, partly because of the devastating winter storms in Texas, after a significant drop the prior week.
At the same time, the Labor Department reported last week that employers added 379,000 jobs in February, an unexpectedly robust number that reinforced confidence in the strength of the recovery roughly one year into the pandemic-induced downturn. The gains came largely in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality industries.
Although initial jobless claims have fallen significantly since last spring, the economy has a long way to go until it reaches pre-pandemic levels. 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.”
Layoffs and business closings persist, trends likely to keep showing up in the weekly jobless claims numbers. But as vaccination rates increase, the weather warms up and more government help arrives, via President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan, which won final approval from Congress on Wednesday, many economists expect a vibrant economic resurgence. Mr. Biden is expected the sign the measure on Friday.
“We’re seeing a huge pickup in hiring,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist with the employment site ZipRecruiter. “I think for many employers, it’s becoming real, and for many job seekers it is as well.”