It’s not just inflation dogging the US economy: Unexpectedly high jobless claims last week serve as a reminder that America’s labor market, too, remains messed up — even as President Joe Biden claims he’s making “progress” on the economy.
On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that US workers filed 230,000 initial jobless claims, the highest since November, and about 15 percent higher than projected. They’d been running at historic lows, but some analysts fear businesses now may be closing down and laying off workers, thanks to the Omicron surge. Vaccine mandates may be fueling the closures.
An even bigger problem, of course, is the extremely tight labor market: A record number of workers quit their jobs in November, and job openings (10.6 million) remained near historic highs. Plus, the labor force participation rate remains low. The manpower shortages, in turn, feed price hikes.
Be glad the Supreme Court on Thursday nixed President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for employers. Already, state and local diktats like that one have worsened staffing shortages, both in the private sector and government services.
Meanwhile, wholesale prices surged 9.7% in 2021, the feds also report. That’s the biggest jump since 2010. And the news comes just a day after officials reported that inflation soared 7% over the 12 months ending in December, the highest spike in 40 years.
Yes, the Omicron bug — and the hysteria surrounding it (see nearby editorial) — are driving some of the economic turmoil. Yet Washington and many state and local leaders (notably, Democrats) have sorely mismanaged both the economy and the response to the virus, even as Biden claims he’s gaining ground on both.
The tragic result: a critical shortage of goods and services, unfilled jobs and stunningly high price hikes for everyday Americans.