US applications for jobless benefits inch down, remain at historically healthy levels

Slightly fewer Americans applied for jobless claims last week, further indicating that the labor market remains strong in an era of high interest rates.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell by 3,000 to 217,000 for the week ending Nov. 4, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Jobless claim applications are seen as representative of the number of layoffs in a given week.

The four-week moving average of claims, a less volatile measure, inched up by 1,500 to 212,250.

Overall, 1.83 million people were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended Oct. 28, about 22,000 more than the previous week and the most since April.

Those “continuing claims,” analyst suggest, are rising because many of those who are already unemployed may now be having a harder time finding new work.

Still, the American labor market continues to show resiliency in the midst of the Federal Reserve’s campaign to get inflation back down to its 2% target.

Though Fed officials opted to leave the benchmark rate alone last week, the U.S. central bank has raised rates 11 times since March of 2022 in an effort to tame inflation, which reached a four-decade high in 2022. Part of the Fed’s goal is too cool the economy and labor market, which officials say should slow price growth.

In September, consumer prices were up 3.7% from a year earlier, down from a peak 9.1% in June last year. However, U.S. economic growth surged in the July-September quarter on the back of robust consumer spending.

The Labor Department reported last week that employers posted 9.6 million job openings in September, up from 9.5 million in August. Layoffs fell to 1.5 million from 1.7 million.

U.S. private employers slowed their hiring in October, adding a modest but still decent 150,000 jobs.

Last month’s job growth, though down sharply from a robust 297,000 gain in September, was solid enough to suggest that many companies still want to hire and that the economy remains sturdy.

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