In the final week of Donald Trump’s presidency, jobless claims took a modest dip but remained historically high, as the pandemic continues to pressure the American labor force.
According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ended Jan. 16 totaled 900,000 — a decline of 26,000 from the previous week’s downwardly revised level. It was slightly less than economists’ predictions of 925,000 applications.
Continuing claims — a measure that paints a broader picture of unemployment in the country and lags jobless numbers by a week — fell by 127,000 to 5.05 million.
Weekly filings had been trending downward since sharp rises in March and April as the COVID-19 health crisis took hold in the United States. However, they began to drift higher in the fall as a surge in infections once again led to government-mandated lockdowns and restrictions on nonessential businesses.
According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, more than 24.44 million people in the U.S. have been sickened by the novel coronavirus, while at least 406,100 deaths have been recorded.
Still, there remains hope: Yesterday, President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S. and his inaugural speech centered on unity as well as political, economic and social recovery. On his first day in office, he signed a flurry of executive orders, including reversing Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, halting funding for the construction of the border wall and beginning the process of rejoining the Paris climate accord.
“There’s no time to start like today,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.”
Today he is expected to focus on pandemic-fighting efforts, and tomorrow he plans to target economic relief for the American people. Last week, Biden unveiled the details of his American Rescue Plan, which would offer another $1,400 in direct payments to eligible individuals; a $400 per week unemployment insurance supplement extended through September; and billions in aid for businesses, states and localities. The new president has also called for Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.