WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to its highest level since November, although the US job market continues to show signs of strength.
The number of jobless aid applications has risen by 14,000 to 262,000 and is now up five in the past six weeks, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
The four-week average for claims, which is leveling off weekly ups and downs, rose 4,500 to 252,000, also the highest since November.
The number of Americans receiving traditional unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 in the week ending July 30 to 1.43 million, the highest since early April.
Unemployment claims are an indicator of layoffs and are often seen as an early indicator of where the labor market is headed.
So far this year, the workforce in the United States has been remarkably strong and resilient in the face of rising interest rates and weak economic growth.
The Labor Department reported last week that US employers added 528,000 jobs last month, more than double what forecasters had expected. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% in July, hitting a 50-year low just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the US economy in early 2020.
The United States recovered with unexpected force from the COVID-19 recession of 2020, which left companies struggling to find enough workers.
But the US economy faces challenges. Consumer prices rose 8.5% in July from a year earlier, slightly below the June 40-year high of 9.1%. To curb 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 shrank in the first half of the year – a rule of thumb for the start of a recession. But the strength of the labor market is not consistent with an economic downturn.
“Labour demand remains quite strong,” Jefferies economists Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska wrote on Thursday. “The modest uptick in claims suggests revenue may be picking up in weaker companies struggling with slowing growth.”
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