WASHINGTON – Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs continue to fall amid a strong rebound in the job market.
Unemployment claims fell 15,000 to 214,000 for the week ending March 12, from 229,000 the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The first applications for unemployment assistance generally follow the rhythm of layoffs.
The four-week average of claims, which offsets weekly volatility, fell to 223,000 from 231,750 the previous week.
A total of 1,419,000 Americans — a 50-year low — were receiving unemployment assistance the week ending March 5, down 71,000 from the previous week.
Earlier this month, the government announced that employers added 678,000 jobs in February, the highest monthly total since July. The jobless rate fell to 3.8% from 4% in January, extending a sharp drop in unemployment to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago.
Businesses in the United States posted a near-record level of open jobs in January – 11.3 million – a trend that has helped to boost workers’ wages and add to inflationary pressures.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday launched a high-risk effort to rein in the worst inflation since the early 1980s, raising its benchmark short-term interest rate and signaling up to six more rate hikes this year.
The quarter-point hike in its key rate, which it had pinned near zero since the start of the pandemic recession two years ago, marks the start of its efforts to rein in the high inflation that followed the exit. of recession. Rate hikes will eventually mean higher lending rates for many consumers and businesses.
Central bank policymakers expect inflation to remain elevated, ending 2022 at 4.3%, according to quarterly projections they released on Wednesday.
Last week, the government announced that consumer inflation had jumped 7.9% over the past year, the biggest rise since 1982.
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