The number of U.S. workers filing first-time claims for unemployment assistance has risen in five of the last six weeks and now sits at a higher level than at any time since November.
Americans filing such claims rose by 14,000 last week, rising to 262,000, according to statistics released by the Labor Department Thursday. The spike comes despite the strength of the U.S job market, which last month added 528,000 jobs.
The four-week average for claims, which smooths out weekly ups and downs, rose by 4,500 to 252,000. That number also sits at its highest level since November.
The number of Americans collecting traditional unemployment benefits increased by 8,000 the week that ended July 30 to 1.43 million, the most since early April.
The 528,000 jobs added by U.S. employers last month was more than double what forecasters had expected, the Associated Press reported. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5% in July, tying a 50-year low reached just before the coronavirus pandemic slammed the U.S. economy in early 2020.
While unemployment is at record lows, the U.S. economy faces other challenges. Consumer prices have been surging, rising 8.5% in July from a year earlier — down slightly from June’s 40-year high 9.1%, the AP reported. In an effort to fight inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its short-term interest rate four times this year.
“Demand for labor remains quite strong,″ economists Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska of Jefferies wrote Thursday, according to the AP. “The modest pickup in claims suggests that turnover may be increasing in weaker firms that are struggling with slowing growth.″