Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but the total number of Americans receiving benefits remained at its lowest level in more than five decades.

Jobless claims rose 1,000 to 203,000 in the week ended May 7, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Initial applications usually track the number of layoffs.

The four-week average of claims, which erases some of the weekly ups and downs, rose 4,250 from the previous week to 192,750.

The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits in the week ended April 30 fell 44,000 from the previous week to 1,343,000. That’s the fewest since January 3, 1970.

Two years after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the economy into a short but devastating recession, American workers enjoy historically strong job security. Weekly jobless claims were consistently below pre-pandemic levels of 225,000 for most of 2022, even as the broader economy contracted in the first quarter.

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Last week, the government reported that America’s employers added 428,000 jobs in April, keeping the unemployment rate at 3.6%, just above its lowest level in half a century. Hiring gains have remained strikingly steady amid the worst inflation in four decades, with employers adding at least 400,000 jobs in 12 straight months.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that US employers posted a record 11.5 million job listings in March — an unprecedented two job listings for every unemployed person. A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March – a sign they are confident they can find better pay or better working conditions elsewhere.

As hot as the job market is, inflation is even hotter. On Thursday, the government reported that US producer prices rose 11% year-on-year in April, a sharp rise that suggests high inflation will remain a drag on consumers and businesses in the coming months.

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On Wednesday, the government reported that inflation eased slightly in April after months of unrelenting increases but remained near a four-decade high. Consumer prices rose 8.3% yoy last month, just below the 8.5% yoy rise in March, the highest since 1981.

Last week, the Federal Reserve stepped up its fight against the worst inflation in 40 years, raising its benchmark short-term interest rate by half a percentage point – the most aggressive move since 2000 – and announcing more large rate hikes. The Fed’s interest rate hike pushed it to a range of 0.75% to 1%, the highest level since the pandemic two years ago.

The Commerce Department reported last month that the U.S. economy shrank in the most recent quarter for the first time since the pandemic recession two years ago, contracting at an annual rate of 1.4%, although consumers and businesses continued to spend, which was a sign of underlying resilience.

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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/05/12/slightly-more-americans-seek-jobless-aid-last-week/ Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week

Joel McCord

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