U.S. jobless claims unchanged at 205,000

<p><p>The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week, remaining at a historically low level that reflects the job market’s strong recovery from the coronavirus recession last year.</p></p><p><p>Jobless claims remained at 205,000. The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week ups and downs, rose to just over 206,000.</p></p><p><p>The numbers suggest that the spread of the omicron variant did not immediately trigger a wave of layoffs.</p></p><p><p>“Fortunately, there’s no evidence in this data of a new wave of fresh job loss,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.</p></p><p><p>“The pandemic’s resurgence is affecting the economy. The question is for how long and how much, and it (is) too early to know the answers.”</p></p><p><p>Altogether, 1.9 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment aid the week that ended Dec. 11.</p></p><p><p>The weekly claims numbers, a proxy for layoffs, have fallen steadily most of the year.</p></p><p><p>Employers are reluctant to let workers go at a time when it’s so tough to find replacements.</p></p><p><p>The United States had a near-record 11 million job openings in October, and 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs — just off September’s record 4.4 million — because there are so many opportunities.</p></p><p><p>The job market has bounced back from last year’s brief but intense coronavirus recession.</p></p><p><p>When COVID hit, governments ordered lockdowns, consumers hunkered down at home and many businesses closed or cut back hours.</p></p><p><p>Employers slashed more than 22 million jobs in March and April 2020, and the unemployment rate rocketed to 14.8%.</p></p><p><p>But massive government spending — and eventually the rollout of vaccines — brought the economy back. Employers have added 18.5 million jobs since April 2020, still leaving the U.S. still 3.9 million jobs short of what it had before the pandemic.</p></p><p><p>The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.2%, close to what economists consider full employment.</p></p>