Fewer Americans claim unemployment benefits last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Slightly fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the job market continues to emerge as one of the strongest segments of the U.S. economy.

Unemployment assistance claims for the week ending August 13 fell by 2,000 to 250,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Last week’s number, which raised some eyebrows, has been revised down by 10,000.

The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week volatility, fell from 2,750 to 246,750.

The number of Americans receiving traditional unemployment benefits rose by 7,000 in the week ending August 6, to 1.43 million. This is the maximum since the beginning of April.

Unemployment claims typically reflect layoffs and are often seen as an early indicator of where the labor market is headed.

Hiring in the United States in 2022 has been remarkably resilient in the face of rising interest rates and weak economic growth.

The Labor Department reported earlier this month that US employers added 528,000 jobs in July, more than double what forecasters had expected. The jobless rate fell to 3.5%, matching a 50-year low reached just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the US economy in early 2020.

The United States has recovered with unexpected strength from the 2020 COVID-19 recession, leaving businesses scrambling to find enough workers.

That’s not to say the US economy doesn’t face challenges. Consumer prices jumped, rising 8.5% in July from a year earlier, down slightly from June’s 40-year high of 9.1%. To fight inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark short-term interest rate four times this year.

Higher borrowing costs have taken their toll. The economy contracted in the first half of the year – a measure suggesting the onset of a recession. But the strength of the labor market has not been compatible with an economic slowdown.

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