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Initial jobless claims this week were ‘disappointing’: Economist

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Indeed Economist AnnElizabeth Konkel joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest market action.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: But for where we go from here in the weeks to come, I want to bring on our next guest to dig into that a little bit more. Annelizabeth Conkle is an economist with Indeed. She joins us now. Annelizabeth, it's good to be chatting with you here. Talk to me about what you make of that report. Because as Emily pointed out, we're still above the worst week we got during the great financial crisis. So talk to me about when we're expected to dip below that because it seems like we've been holding steady around this number for a bit.

ANNELIZABETH KONKEL: It's certainly disappointing that regular initial claims went up. It is promising, though, that when you look at total additional claims, which is regular initial claims, plus PUA initial claims, that number is now under 900,000. For months, that number has stuck around the 1 million mark, 1.4, 1.3, 1.2. So, very happy that it is finally under 1 million. I will say that we have certainly seen vast improvement since this time last year, when, in April 2020, total initial claims were sitting at 6.2 million. So but there is definitely further progress to be made. We certainly want to bring the magnitude down both for regular initial claims and PUA initial claims.

AKIKO FUJITA: What are you seeing over at Indeed in terms of the job postings that you're starting to get? You've talked about a pickup in activity there when you compare it to pre-pandemic levels.

ANNELIZABETH KONKEL: As of last Friday, job postings on Indeed were up 16.4%, compared to their pre-pandemic baseline. Now I know that sounds like a lot, but we really need hiring to stay elevated for a while to pull the millions of jobless back into the labor market. So that is something that we want to see continue to be elevated. We want to continue to see it to accelerate and to grow. There are some particular sectors that are doing well, such as pharmacy loading and stocking. It all comes back to the what I'll call the COVID economy. Pharmacy is up because the hiring of pharmacists to get the vaccine into people's arms.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I wonder-- I mean, when you talk about needing extended gains for quite some time to get back to where we were, I guess that becomes the question because we're seeing a certain level of activity pick back up. You're talking about jobs out there and companies wanting to hire. But I mean, there are, I guess, concerns that you could see what we're seeing play out in Europe with cases beginning to tick back up, restrictions getting put back into place. It's probably not going to happen-- hopefully not going to happen-- back here.

But when it comes to maybe the confidence on the part of companies out there looking to hire, what do you maybe project that to look like if it's going to accelerate over the next couple of months or kind of stay steady in terms of what we've seen now?

ANNELIZABETH KONKEL: I think the confidence ties back to the public health situation. That is what started this entire mess. And improving that public health situation is how we are going to get out of it. It is certainly promising that the vaccine eligibility for adults, that April 19 date, is coming very soon. So that is certainly promising. I will leave it to the public health experts about the variants that as a non-public health expert, that certainly is concerning, reading about the different variants and how that might play out. But it really goes back to what is happening with COVID-19.

AKIKO FUJITA: Annelizabeth, you just pointed to some of the areas where you're seeing a real pick-up in activity. What about the sectors that you are seeing lagging behind? And what does that tell you about how uneven the recovery is?

ANNELIZABETH KONKEL: It certainly is an uneven recovery. Hospitality and tourism is still down. And that is a sector that I don't expect to fully recover until we get the public health situation under control. People need to feel comfortable to go take a vacation. And we are just simply not at that that spot right now.

ZACK GUZMAN: When we look at maybe some of the other impacts here, right, we've been talking about-- oh, I guess it's been a while since we talked about that tradeoff between increased unemployment benefits and the idea that it might make it harder for employers to attract talent and actually get people to come back for jobs. We've been hearing pieces of that from a few employers saying that it's rather difficult right now to hire, which would seem strange given the fact that you have, you know, so many still on unemployment seeking jobs.

So where does that look like? Who should we believe when it comes to that, I guess, is the question. Because we are seeing people exit the labor force in general, too. So I wonder what kind of mixture you have between what we saw play out in the financial crisis versus now, when the unemployment benefits are there. What's the truth there?

ANNELIZABETH KONKEL: So I think that's very tricky to parse. I would say that it's-- particularly because it comes back to the public health situation, it's very tough to gauge how concerned are job seekers about that in-person work. Because generally, it seems that it's the in-person work, where you have to be potentially in a store for eight hours a day, that is where the trouble lies. And it's something that we have to kind of wait to see hopefully that once the vaccinations really ramp up and the public health situation improves, hopefully that problem will go away.

ZACK GUZMAN: I think it's a good point. And I think it's probably why maybe we should be talking maybe a little bit more about the fact that President Biden moved that vaccination timeline up even more than he did before. So we'll see how that all plays out. But Annelizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed, appreciate you stopping by.