U.S. Jobless Claims Spike Amid Omicron, But Remain Low

The number of Americans applying for unemployment spiked over the last week, from 23,000 to 230,000, but claims still remain at pre-pandemic lows.

Prior to last week, the four-week average for jobless claims rose from 6,300 to nearly 211,000, following a yearlong downward trend, according to the Department of Labor. But experts believe that number could plummet once again after the current wave of COVID-19 cases caused by the highly infectious omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics told ABC News on Thursday the increase in claims “reflects an increase in layoffs due to the surge in COVID cases.”

“Claims may remain elevated in the near term, but we expect initial claims will gravitate back to the 200k level once the omicron wave passes. Encouragingly, there are indications that cases from the omicron variant are peaking,” the economists said in a statement.

In November 2021, U.S. unemployment claims dropped from 199,000 to 71,000, the lowest since mid-November 1959, which came as a surprise to economists. Additionally, nearly 4.5 million workers left their jobs in November, but economists believe the job market is rebounding from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

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