New Unemployment Claims Leveling Off and a Look at States' Hospitality Unemployment Numbers

Leisure and hospitality employment numbers are rebounding but threatened by spikes in COVID-19.

The latest unemployment numbers were released and show new claims surpassed one million for the 14th straight week since COVID-19 started. Roughly 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment which was a decline of 60,000 compared to the previous week. The four-week moving average shows jobless claims have decreased 160,000 as the country begins to reopen more. The record for one week of unemployment claims peaked at 6.5 million in March.

An estimated 19.5 million workers are still unemployed and the unemployment rate for the month of May was 13.3%. NPR reported that the Federal Reserve expects unemployment to be around 9% heading into 2021.

Looking at state by state data for employment in leisure and hospitality, New York had the worst percentage change from May 2019 to May 2020 at -62.1%. Massachusetts (-59.9%) and the District of Columbia (-59.6%) round out the top three.

The least affected states for hospitality workers were Arkansas (-25.5%), Mississippi (-23.3%), and Oklahoma (-17.9%). Looking at April year-over-year data, these three states' change in employment improved by an average of ~11 points.

The NYTimes also reported on another Commerce Department data release that showed durable goods orders rose 15.8%, nearly 5% higher than economists predicted. This indicator is used as an indicator of American consumer demand and a positive economic sign.

While the news is showing trends for recovery, there are concerns being voiced due to the sharp rise in positive tests of COVID-19. Yesterday was the highest number of new cases for the United States and officials in Texas, Arizona, and Florida are urging caution. While more testing is one result of record numbers, positivity rates are around 6% in the U.S., up from a low of 4.4% last week. California has implemented new directives on mandatory mask and Nevada announced similar measures last night.

Bar and restaurant owners faced tough times keeping staff when unemployment was at record lows as team members were able to quickly find other employment in a booming economy. While many operations cite finding employees is hard with the current federal $600 unemployment bonus, when that program ends in a few weeks, recruiting and retaining talent may be easier than before COVID-19 started. 

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