CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since April despite widespread evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding steadily from the pandemic recession.
As the job market has strengthened, the number of weekly applications for unemployment aid has fallen for most of the year. The number of jobless claims generally reflects the pace of layoffs.
More than 3.5 million are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits, only up 1,000 Americans from the week prior.
With vaccinations up and more consumers venturing out to spend — on restaurant meals, airline fares, movie tickets and store purchases — the economy is rapidly recovering from the recession. All that renewed spending has fueled customer demand and led many companies to seek new workers, often at higher wages, and avoid layoffs.
In fact, the speed of the rebound from the recession has caught many businesses off guard and touched off a scramble to hire. In May, employers added a less-than-expected 559,000 jobs, evidence that many companies are struggling to find enough workers as the economy recovers faster than expected.
“The path ahead is uncertain with many questions yet to be answered,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “We don’t know how successful businesses will be in finding the workers they want or how many they will ultimately hire. Another unfolding mystery: We don’t know how many individuals will opt to return to the workforce or their old jobs, or will be willing to accept the wages they’re offered.”
The economy is ironically facing a labor crunch, despite employment being still 7.6 million jobs below its peak in February 2020. A shortage of childcare facilities is keeping some parents, mostly women, at home.