When will companies feel confident enough to bring workers back on the job?
It's the trillion-dollar question on economists' and market-watchers' minds as jobless claims and broader unemployment data continue to tick higher amid the worst of the pandemic to date.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 885,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Dec. 12, up from a revised 862,000 claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had been expecting claims of 800,000.
The numbers reflect ongoing troubles in the all-important labor market, where the pandemic has continued to impact employers' decisions on keeping staff on the payroll, even during the critical holiday shopping season.
At the same time, Congress reportedly was near to signing off on a $900 billion aid package that could see checks of between $600 to $700 sent out before the end of the year, helping offset lost income for workers out of a job.
The Federal Reserve also is doing what it can do ensure borrowing costs remain low for consumers and businesses alike into the foreseeable future. The Fed on Wednesday pledged to keep rates near record lows for at least three years, while continuing to buy $120 billion of bonds a month until "substantial" progress was made on jobs and inflation.
All that and, of course, the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines are expected to give employers more confidence to bring workers back on the job come spring. But the question is by how much - and how quickly - the economy and labor market will recover in 2021.
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