Initial claims for unemployment jumped from 385,000 to 412,000 in the first week of April, but experts say that this does not signal a reversal of the downward trend in layoffs. Most economists forecast the number of initial weekly claims to go back below 400,000.
The more reliable four-week moving average, an average that smoothes out the volatility of claims data, stands at 396,750. The consensus among economists is that claims for unemployment last week will go back down to 390,00, continuing the general decrease in claims since the recession ended in 2009.
Brian M. Jones, an economist at Societe Generale in New York says that the upward tick in last the previous week’s claims might have resulted from a statistical aberration. In some states, claimant’s unemployment checks are adjusted for inflation every quarter. It is probable that a number of workers that were laid off in late March waited until the first week of the second quarter to file in order to take advantage of the higher allotments.
He did acknowledge that some companies such as Ford Motor Company and Bank of America have been laying off workers in significant numbers.
“There were significant layoffs in the automotive industry where some plants’ supply chains are disrupted by the earthquake in Japan,” he said. “That might have had more of an impact.”
While manufacturing is having a tough time adding jobs, there have been gains in jobs for in retail and restaurants. This month, Home Depot announced that the hardware store will hire 60,000 seasonal workers. Lowes, another home supplies giant, plans on hiring 10,000 new workers.
One company that grabbed headlines this week for hiring workers is McDonalds. The fast-food giant staged its first national hiring day to fill about 50,000 jobs, some of them part-time.
John A Challenger, the CEO of an outplacement company in Chicago says that even though these jobs don’t pay very high wages, growth in these areas can help lower the unemployment rate for the neediest Americans.
“The people applying at McDonald’s are not college graduates,” he says. “These jobs at places like Home Depot, McDonald’s, these jobs are in the neighborhoods of cities and rural areas where jobs are desperately needed. Nobody wants to commute for an hour to get to these jobs.”
Challenger noted that the unemployment rate for adults without high school degrees is at 13.7 percent. College graduates have an unemployment rate of only 4.4 percent—about half the rate for the nation at large.
Brian Jones thinks that retail jobs such as McDonalds would be attractive to the long-term unemployed that can no longer find suitable employment in the same field that they used to work in.
“When you have bills to pay, pride goes out the window,” he says. “You want to get up and go somewhere, whether it’s a training program or a job. McDonalds and any firm that is hiring will fill these jobs easily because the demand is there.”