The country might be starting to open back up — but the job market is still pretty locked down.
Over 2.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — making for a nine-week total of 38.9 million.
Some of the people who filed for unemployment support during the coronavirus shutdown are back to work. Retailers that furloughed store associates, for instance, are starting to reopen their stores. Kohl’s Corp. closed its 1,100 doors on March 20 and ultimately furloughed 85,000 workers, but now has half of its store base up and running and is paying associates again. At Macy’s Inc., about 190 of the company’s 668 stores under the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s banners are open again and starting to help the company dig out of a 45 percent drop in sales in the first quarter, when revenues fell to $3 billion.
But it is still not clear just how strongly the job market will bounce back and just how long it will take.
J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Neiman Marcus Group and J. Crew Group all sunk into bankruptcy this month and are expected to shutter some stores for good, costing many workers their jobs. Stage Stores Inc. filed for Chapter 11 and is winding down as it hopes to find a buyer. Pier One Imports also is heading toward a liquidation and closing of all its remaining stores.
That dynamic, with some companies half open, some cutting back and some closing for good, is playing out across the economy and is worrisome for consumer spending, which economists see as underpinned most immediately by employment.
While many are hoping that pent up demand will get shoppers spending again, it is not clear just when they’ll be economically able to head back to the stores en masse.