What's really going on with the labor market


The labor market is showing some signs of improvement: Jobless claims fell to 730,000 — a dramatic drop from 841,000 the previous week. And the latest jobs report showed a pandemic-era low unemployment rate of 6.3%

That's not the full story, experts say.

 Last week's jobless claims are significantly lower compared with the start of the pandemic, but they're still well above pre-pandemic levels.

  • Add in the fresh filings for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program last week — created for a gig and self-employed workers — and claims totaled close to 1.2 million.

 Winter storms that caused power outages across Texas and beyond may have prevented some from filing for unemployment.

  • "Claims in Texas fell last week, but some economists say that could have reflected the difficulty in filing for benefits," Wall Street Journal's Eric Morath writes.

 When you account for the scores of Americans — such as overwhelmed parents and caregivers — who have simply dropped out of the workforce or others who have given up looking for work, the unemployment rate is closer to 10%, notes Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the jobs site Indeed.

There's also a great deal of inequality baked into the trouble of the job.

  • The Black unemployment rate is at 9.2%, compared with the 5.7% white unemployment rate.
  • And 2.1 million women have dropped out of the labor force, compared with 1.7 million men.

 "The labor market is in a better spot than it was last April, but its recovery is incomplete and unequal," Bunker says.

 Workers that refuse work at unsafe workplaces will now be eligible for unemployment pay, according to a change by the Biden administration on Thursday.

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