Written by Matt Ot
WASHINGTON (AP) – Last week, fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits as layoffs remain historically low.
During the week ending April 2, the number of unemployment claims fell by 5,000 to 166,000, the labor ministry said Thursday. The number for the previous week was revised by 31,000 claims. In recent weeks, claims have fluctuated at more than 50-year lows. For the first time, applications for unemployment benefits usually correspond to the rate of dismissals.
The four-week average of claims, which offsets weekly volatility, fell 8,000 to 170,000 from 178,000 the previous week, which was revised by 30,500.
In the week ended March 26 alone, 1,523,000 Americans were collecting unemployment benefits, up 17,000 from the previous week, the lowest in more than 50 years.
Last week, the Department of Labor announced that U.S. employers had extended a series of secure hires, adding 431,000 jobs in March and lowering the unemployment rate to 3.8%. Despite the surge in inflation, persistent supply bottlenecks, damage from COVID-19 and now the war in Europe, employers have added at least 400,000 jobs for 11 months in a row.
Vacancies in February were almost record high, which has changed little from the previous month, continuing a trend that Federal Reserve officials see as a factor in inflation. There were 11.3 million job vacancies last month, down from January and just below the December record of 11.4 million, the Labor Ministry said last week.
The number of Americans who quit their jobs was also historically high – 4.4 million compared to 4.3 million in January. More than 4.5 million people resigned in November, the largest in two decades.
Last month, the Fed launched a high-risk effort to curb the worst inflation since the early 1980s by raising its benchmark short-term interest rate and signaling six additional rate increases this year. Minutes of that meeting in mid-March, released on Wednesday, showed that aggressive Fed officials said raising the interest rate by half a point, rather than the traditional quarter-point increase, “might be appropriate” several times this year.
Last week, inflation, closely monitored by the central bank, jumped 6.4% in February from a year ago, when sharply higher prices for food, gasoline and other necessities squeezed Americans’ finances. Other figures showed that prices rose by almost 8% last year.
Fed politicians predict that inflation will remain at 4.3% until 2022.