Fewer Americans claim unemployment benefits last week – The Morning Call

NEW YORK — Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the labor market continued to stand out as one of the strongest segments of the U.S. economy.

Claims for unemployment benefits fell by 2,000 to 243,000 in the week ended Aug. 20, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The four-week average of claims, which smooths out some weekly volatility, rose 1,500 to 247,000.

The number of Americans receiving traditional unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 in the week ended Aug. 13 to 1.42 million.

First-time filings typically reflect layoffs and are often seen as an early indicator of where the job market is headed.

Hiring in the United States was remarkably strong in 2022, even as the country faced rising interest rates and weak economic growth.

US employers added 528,000 jobs in July, more than double what forecasters expected, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching the 50-year low reached just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the US economy in early 2020.

But there are other problems. Consumer prices are rising rapidly, rising 8.5% in July from a year earlier — just below June’s 40-year high of 9.1%. To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark short-term interest rate four times this year.

On Friday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will deliver a speech that could shed more light on how high or how quickly the central bank might raise interest rates in the coming months.

Higher borrowing costs took a toll. The economy shrank in the first half of the year, one indicator of the onset of recession. But the strength of the labor market has not matched the economic downturn.

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