U.S. jobless claims plunge to 199,000, lowest in 52 years
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plummeted last week to the lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the U.S. job market is rebounding rapidly from last year’s coronavirus recession.
A hiring sign is displayed outside of a retail store in Vernon Hills, Ill. | Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
11/24/2021 09:28 AM EST
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plummeted last week to the lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the U.S. job market is rebounding rapidly from last year’s coronavirus recession.
Jobless claims dropped by 71,000 to 199,000, the lowest since mid-November 1969. The drop was much bigger than economists expected.null
The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly ups and downs, also dropped — by 21,000 to just over 252,000, the lowest since mid-March 2020 when the pandemic slammed the economy.
Since topping 900,000 in early January, the applications have fallen steadily toward and now fallen below their prepandemic level of around 220,000 a week. Claims for jobless aid are a proxy for layoffs.
Overall, 2 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment checks the week that ended Nov. 13, down slightly from the week before.
Until Sept. 6, the federal government had supplemented state unemployment insurance programs by paying an extra payment of $300 a week and extending benefits to gig workers and to those who were out of work for six months or more. Including the federal programs, the number of Americans receiving some form of jobless aid peaked at more than 33 million in June 2020.
The job market has staged a remarkable comeback since the spring of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close or cut hours and kept many Americans at home as a health precaution. In March and April last year, employers slashed more than 22 million jobs.
But government relief checks, super-low interest rates and the rollout of vaccines combined to give consumers the confidence and financial wherewithal to start spending again. Employers, scrambling to meet an unexpected surge in demand, have made 18 million new hires since April 2020 and are expected to add another 575,000 this month. Still, the United States remains 4 million short of the jobs it had in February 2020.nullnull
Companies now complain that they can’t find workers to fill job openings, a near-record 10.4 million in September. Workers, finding themselves with bargaining clout for the first time in decades, are becoming choosier about jobs; a record 4.4 million quit in September, a sign they have confidence in their ability to find something better.
Jurors found three white men guilty of murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man. They still face federal hate-crime charges next year.
Wednesday, November 24, 2021 1:53 PM EST
The three defendants — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbor William Bryan, 52 — face sentences of up to life in prison.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 23, 2021
Gov. Whitmer Signs Executive Directive Readying Michigan to Effectively Use Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan to Continue Fixing the Damn Roads & Bridges
Governor focused on collaborating with legislature to fix local roads, make every commute safer and smoother, create more good-paying jobs for Michigan workers
LANSING, Mich. – Governor Gretchen Whitmer today, in preparation for the billions in federal funds Michigan is expected to receive over the next five years specifically for roads and bridges from the newly-enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, issued an executive directive (ED) to state departments and agencies to collaborate with the legislature and begin preparing the state to rebuild hundreds of miles of roads, repair hundreds of bridges, and restore high-quality transportation infrastructure for every family, community, and small business.
“Right now, we have an historic opportunity to put Michiganders first and use the billions in funding we are expected to receive under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure every community has safe, smooth roads and bridges,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “With this executive directive, we are getting ready to build up local roads and bridges across Michigan, create thousands of good-paying jobs for Michiganders, and ensure small businesses, downtowns, and neighborhoods have high-quality, reliable infrastructure to rely on as we usher in a new era of prosperity for our state. I look forward to working with the legislature to invest these dollars and get the job done.”
“Everyone in Michigan is well-aware of the need to fix our roads, bridges and critical infrastructure,” said Doug Stockwell, Business Manager of Operating Engineers 324. “And now the federal government has joined Michigan in dedicating the financial investment to make it happen. Effective and efficient construction requires good planning, quality materials, and a highly skilled workforce like the members of Operating Engineers 324. Governor Whitmer’s Executive Directive will make sure the planning stage is done correctly, setting Michigan residents up for better roads, bridges, and quality jobs.”
“A bipartisan coalition passed the once-in-a-generation infrastructure plan in Washington, and the Detroit Regional Chamber urges leaders in Lansing to address the state’s long-term needs with bipartisan cooperation,” said Brad Williams, Vice President of Government Relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Strategically investing in roads, bridges, broadband, and sustainable resiliency will position Michigan businesses, Michigan workers, and Michigan’s economy to thrive in the global marketplace.”
The ED directs state departments to take a range of actions to ensure that Michigan continues fixing the damn roads and bridges, including:
- Putting Michigan workers and businesses first, prioritizing in-state businesses and workers as the state continues repairing or replacing roads and bridges.
- Ensuring the new federal funds are used to rejuvenate local roads with the right mix of materials and complement the work in progress under the Rebuilding Michigan plan.
- Prioritizing projects to revitalize rural and urban communities, accelerate housing and economic development, encourage outdoor recreation, and promote equity.
- Pursuing opportunities to make our roads and bridges more resilient to flooding.
- Helping local communities build more efficiently, using the “dig once” principle to complete work on water, high-speed internet, the road, and other utilities simultaneously wherever possible.
- Continuing to lead the future of mobility and electrification by looking for opportunities to expedite the deployment of electric vehicle chargers while rebuilding roads and bridges.
To view the full executive directive, click the link below:
Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan
The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will send billions of dollars to Michigan to help Governor Whitmer continue fixing the damn roads, create millions of good-paying jobs, ensure small businesses can safely transport goods, expand the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, replace aging water infrastructure, including lead service lines, and expand high-speed internet access.
More details on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act can be found here.
Roads and Bridges Background
Bipartisan Budget to Build Bridges
In September, the governor signed a bipartisan budget to repair or replace nearly 100 local bridges that are closed or in critical condition while creating 2,500 jobs. This investment will complement the work in progress under the Rebuilding Michigan program and will be further expanded on thanks to the billions the state is expected to receive from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Spending as if the Future Matters
Nov. 22, 2021, 7:00 p.m. ET
By Paul Krugman
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For centuries, America has invested taxpayer money in its future. Public funds built physical infrastructure, from the Erie Canal to the interstate highway system. We invested in human capital, too: Universal education came to the United States early, and America basically invented modern public secondary education. This public spending laid the foundations for prosperity and helped make us an economic superpower.
With the rise of the modern right, however, America turned its back on that history. Tax breaks — essentially giving wealthy people money and hoping that it would trickle down — became the solution to every problem. “Infrastructure week” became a punchline under Donald Trump partly because the Trump team’s proposals were more about crony capitalism than about investment, partly because Trump never showed the will to override conservatives who opposed any significant new spending.
Now Joe Biden is trying to revive the tradition of public spending oriented toward the future.
The Build Back Better legislation that passed the House last week isn’t a pure investment plan; in particular, it includes substantial health care spending that is more about helping Americans in the near term than about the future. But about two-thirds of the proposed spending is indeed investment in the sense that it should have big payoffs in the future. And if you combine Build Back Better with the already-enacted infrastructure bill, you see an agenda that is about three-fourths investment spending.
Here’s how I read the Biden program as it now stands. Total new spending would be about $2.3 trillion over a decade. This total would include $500 billion to $600 billion of spending on each of three things: traditional infrastructure, restructuring the economy to address climate change, and children, with the last item mainly consisting of pre-K and child care but also involving tax credits that would greatly reduce child poverty.ADVERTISEMENThttps://9f1f158dd1b93661e90053b471802da0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
There’s every reason to believe that all three types of spending would have a high social rate of return.
Snarled supply chains have reminded everyone that old-fashioned physical infrastructure remains hugely important; we are still living in a material world, and getting stuff where it needs to go requires public as well as private investment.
As far as climate investments are concerned, the damage from a warming planet is becoming increasingly obvious — and droughts, fires and extreme weather are only the leading edge of the disasters to come. Build Back Better’s investments wouldn’t come close to ending the danger, but they would mitigate climate change, partly protect us against some its consequences and make it easier for the United States to lead the world toward a more comprehensive solution. So the money would be well spent.
Finally, there is overwhelming evidence that helping families with children is a high-return investment in the nation’s future, because children whose families have adequate resources become healthier, more productive adults.ADVERTISEMENThttps://9f1f158dd1b93661e90053b471802da0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
So what’s not to like about this agenda? No, it wouldn’t be inflationary: Don’t take it from me, listen to credit rating agencies, which are saying the same thing. The approved and proposed spending would be fairly small as a share of gross domestic product — which the Congressional Budget Office projects at $288 trillion over the next decade — and largely paid for with new taxes, so it would have very little inflationary impact.
Oh, and while some of the “pay-fors” are questionable — as it happens, mainly on the traditional infrastructure bill; Build Back Better is more or less paid for — which means that the spending would probably add somewhat to federal debt over the next few years, that debt increase would be small relative to G.D.P. and, given low interest rates, would barely add to debt service costs. Over the longer term, the payoff to public investment might well be enough to reduce the deficit.
Still, Republicans are denouncing the Biden agenda as socialism, because, of course, they are. Hey, by their standards America has been run by socialists for most of its history — people like DeWitt Clinton, the New York governor who built the Erie Canal, and Horace Mann, who led the Common School movement for universal basic education a couple of decades later. And don’t even get me started on Dwight Eisenhower, who presided over huge government investment and a top tax rate of 91 percent.
Admittedly, the Biden plan would reduce economic disparities, both because expanded benefits would matter more to less-affluent families and because its tax changes would be strongly progressive. But public policy that reduces inequality, like public investment, is squarely in our national tradition. America basically invented progressive taxation, and as the economist Claudia Goldin has noted, the high school movement was “rooted in egalitarianism.”ADVERTISEMENThttps://9f1f158dd1b93661e90053b471802da0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
So don’t believe politicians who are trying to portray Biden’s investment agenda as somehow irresponsible and radical. It’s highly responsible, and it’s an attempt to restore the all-American idea that government should help create a better future.More on government spendingOpinion | Steven RattnerI Warned the Democrats About InflationNov. 16, 2021Opinion | Bret StephensManchin and Sinema Should Just Say NoSept. 28, 2021
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Paul Krugman has been an Opinion columnist since 2000 and is also a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He won the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on international trade and economic geography. @PaulKrugman