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Unemployment Claims End 2021 Near Pre-Pandemic Levels Despite Omicron Surge

America’s latest weekly report on unemployment benefits shows a near return to pre-pandemic jobless claims even as the U.S. battles a surge of COVID this month due to the Omicron variant.

According to Thursday’s report from the Department of Labor, 198,000 Americans filed initial claims for the week ending Dec. 25, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

The Labor Department also reported on Thursday that the four-week moving average was 199,250, a decrease of 7,250 from the previous week’s revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since Oct. 1969 when it was 199,250, the Labor Department said.

And, the number of continued claims, counting workers who have applied for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at 1.7 million in the week ended Dec. 18, the lowest level since March 2020.

Overall, these numbers point to a marked year of recovery even as COVID continues to spike across the country. While this surge doesn’t seem to be trickling down into the job market just yet, the Omicron variant is wreaking havoc on our nation’s road to recovery.

The U.S. is shattering infection records this month. Rates of COVID-19 cases remain high and are rising in many parts of the United States. According to the CDC, as of Dec. 28, the seven-day average of daily new cases is 277,242, a 71% increase from the previous week.

Indeed, the spread of the Delta and Omicron variant has impacted travel, major events, and retail right in the middle of the holiday season. Major events like tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square has also been affected, with city officials slashing crowd capacity to 15,000 from a typical pre-pandemic celebration that would host 58,000 revelers.

Retail hasn’t escaped the surge unscathed either as Apple temporarily closed all of its New York City stores for in-person shopping earlier this week. The tech giant is now allowing customers to come in on a limited basis, after facing backlash. SJP has also closed its store temporarily in midtown due to the virus’ spread.

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