The numbers: The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in mid-November fell for the seventh straight week and are heading toward pre-pandemic lows due to the biggest labor shortage in decades. New filings for jobless benefit slipped by 1,000 to 268,000 in the seven days ended Nov. 13, the government said Thursday.
Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated initial jobless claims would total a seasonally adjusted 260,000. Unemployment filings are hurtling toward pre-crisis lows, when they were in the low 200,000s. They totaled as much as 900,000 a week at the start of the year. Companies are only laying off workers as a last resort owing to the labor shortage. Some 10 million-plus jobs are available and businesses can’t fill most of them. Read: ‘My business faces a dire shortage of workers,’ owner tells Congress Big picture: The economy has sped up since a delta-related dropoff at the end of summer, but it can’t grow much faster unless a lot more people go back to work. Some companies have had to scale back production or business hours because they don’t have enough staff. The labor shortage is unlikely to ease up quickly, however, especially with the coronavirus prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest. Millions of people are still reluctant to return to work or may have left the labor force permanently. Read: U.S. retail sales jump 1.7%, but high inflation plays role Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500
were set to open higher Thursday trades. Stock prices have been hitting record highs.