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On The Money: Jobless claims tick up as omicron surges

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Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup

Today’s Big Deal: New claims for unemployment aid rose, but not by much. We’ll also look at intense backlash to lawmakers trading stocks and the rising trade deficit. 

For The Hill, I’m Sylvan Lane. Write me at slane@thehill.com or @SylvanLane. You can reach my colleagues on the Finance team Naomi Jagoda at njagoda@thehill.com or @NJagoda and Aris Folley at afolley@thehill.com or @ArisFolley

Let’s get to it. 


Jobless claims hit 207K in 2021’s final week

New claims for jobless aid ticked higher in the final week of 2021, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. 

  • In the week ending Dec. 31, seasonally adjusted new applications for unemployment insurance totaled 207,000, rising by 7,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 200,000 claims. 
  • Jobless claims lingered close to 200,000 per week through the final two months of 2021, almost 20,000 applications below pre-pandemic levels, despite the emergence of the omicron variant shortly after Thanksgiving. 

While some industries hit hard by new cases have struggled amid omicron, the overall economy has held strong and companies have been reluctant to lay off workers with more than 10 million open jobs yet to be filled. 

“Weekly unemployment claims only ticked up for the latest week, showing the surge in Omicron cases hasn’t increased layoffs. Given the surge is expected to drop significantly in the next month, and employers are clinging to the workers they have in the face of a record number of employees quitting, Omicron may not affect layoffs at all,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, in a statement. 

I have more here. 


Trade deficit surges to near-record $80.2 billion in November 

The U.S. trade deficit ballooned to $80.2 billion in November, nearly matching the record of $81.4 billion set in September, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau announced Thursday. 

The overall trade deficit rose from $67.2 billion in October, with imported goods and services surging $13.4 billion to a total of $304.4 billion in November. But exported goods and services only climbed $0.4 billion to $224.2 billion. 

The Hill’s Brad Dress has more here. 


Three in four voters support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll 

Three-quarters of voters agree that members of Congress should not be able to trade stocks while serving in office, according to a new poll released Thursday and obtained by The Hill. 

  • The survey, commissioned by conservative advocacy group Convention of States Action, found that 76 percent of voters believe that lawmakers and their spouses have an “unfair advantage” in the stock market.  
  • Just 5 percent of respondents approved of members trading stocks, while 19 percent gave no opinion. 

Some prominent politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), called on Congress to ban lawmakers from trading stocks after Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and others came under fire for selling securities just before the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the market in 2020. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently investigating Burr’s trades. 

Karl-Evers Hillstrom breaks it down

Good to Know 

French regulators fined Google and Facebook a combined 210 million euros, or $237 million, saying the tech giants made it easier for users to accept being tracked online than to opt out. 

Here’s what else have our eye on: 

  • Climate advocates are feeling optimistic after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) expressed openness to climate provisions in the Democrats’ proposed social and climate spending bill amid his disagreement with other pieces of the legislation.  
  • NYT: “A Fed Official’s 2020 Trade Drew Outcry. It Went Further Than First Disclosed”

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow. 

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Joe Manchin Richard Burr

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