Fewer Americans claim unemployment benefits last week

By MATT OTT
AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment assistance last week, with the number of Americans receiving unemployment at historic lows.

Jobless claims fell by 11,000 to 200,000 for the week ending May 28, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The first applications generally follow the number of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the weekly volatility, fell 500 from the previous week to 206,500.

The total number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits for the week ending May 21 fell from the previous week, to 1,309,000, the fewest since December 27, 1969.

American workers enjoy historically strong job security two years after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the economy into a short but devastating recession. Weekly jobless claims have been consistently below the pre-pandemic level of 225,000 for most of 2022, even as the global economy contracted in the first quarter and concerns about inflation linger. .

Last month, the government announced that US employers added 428,000 jobs in April, leaving the unemployment rate at 3.6%, just above the lowest level in half a century. Hiring gains have been surprisingly steady in the face of the worst inflation in four decades, with employers adding at least 400,000 jobs for 12 straight months.

The government’s May jobs report will be released on Friday, and many expect the streak of 400,000 jobs added to be broken. Economists polled by FactSet project that the United States added 323,000 jobs in May, which would be the fewest in about a year and a half.

A separate government jobs report on Wednesday said the number of job vacancies across the economy fell slightly in April but remained much higher, at 11.4 million, than the number of unemployed.

The healthy level of open jobs shows that companies are still trying to recruit staff and grow, even as inflation nears a 40-year high and the Federal Reserve has embarked on what could be its pace. the fastest rise in interest rates since the 1980s.

Last month, the government announced that U.S. producer prices rose 11% in April from a year earlier, a sizable gain that indicates high inflation will continue to burden consumers and companies in the coming months.

Consumer inflation eased slightly in April after months of steady increases, but remained near a four-decade high. Consumer prices jumped 8.3% last month from a year ago, just below the 8.5% year-on-year rise in March that was the most high since 1981.

Earlier in May, the Federal Reserve intensified its fight against inflation by raising its benchmark short-term interest rate by half a percentage point, signaling further significant rate hikes to come.

There had been speculation that the Fed might consider a pause in rate hikes at its September meeting, but those hopes dwindled after a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Supply Management showed that manufacturing growth is slowing. accelerated last month, contrary to economists’ expectations for a slowdown.