Initial jobless claims beat expectations this week, falling below 1 million to 963,000 for the first time in 21 weeks. In an intriguing sign that economic activity may be restarting faster than expected, initial jobless claims are now the lowest they’ve been since mid-March.
Putting the jobs recovery in context
We’ve talked before about how this crisis has been much faster and more extreme than the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. This time around, employment peaked in February at 152.5 million jobs before bottoming out in April — just two months later — after losing about 14.5%, or 22.1 million jobs. To date, we’ve gained back 9.3 of that 22.1 million, or about 42% of the total amount lost.
Compare that to the Great Financial Crisis. Back then, employment peaked in January 2008 and didn’t bottom out until February 2010. During that time we lost 8.7 million jobs and didn’t recover, in percentage terms, to where we are now until early 2012 — a full 2 years later!
While the debate rages now as to what we should attribute Thursday’s sharp decrease — whether the expiration of the $600 supplemental benefit, individuals falling off the rolls, or increased reopening activity — what is undeniable is that the speed of this recovery outpaces anything we’ve seen in recent history.
Still, investors would be wise to remember that even in the midst of this robust recovery, new weekly unemployment claims remain higher than anything we’ve seen during any recession.
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