First-Time Claims Up Slightly, But Overall Unemployment Rate Remains at 50-Year Low

The number of U.S. workers applying for unemployment benefits rose a little last week, climbing above 200,000 for the first time since February.

But the overall number of Americans continuing to collect benefits didn’t move, remaining at its lowest level in more than 50 years.

Statistics released by the Labor Department Thursday showed applications for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 1,000 claims for a total of some 203,000 for the week ending May 7.

Meanwhile, the four-week average for claims rose 4,250 from the previous week to 192,750, the Labor Department reported.

The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending April 30 fell by 44,000 from the previous week to 1,343,000. That’s the fewest since January 3, 1970.

Weekly applications for unemployment aid have been consistently below the pre-pandemic level of 225,000 for most of 2022, even as the overall economy contracted in the first quarter, the Associated Press reported.

That comes off a strong jobs report for April, when the Labor Department raid the U.S. economy added 428,000 jobs, with the resulting unemployment rate remaining at 3.6%, just above the lowest level in a half-century. Despite the worst inflation in 40 years, employers have added at least 400,000 jobs for 12 straight months.

According to the AP, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that U.S. employers posted a record 11.5 million job openings in March — an unprecedented two job openings for every person who is unemployed. A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March, the AP reported — a sign that they are confident they can find better pay or improved working conditions elsewhere.

On Wednesday, the government reported that inflation eased slightly in April after months of relentless increases. Still, it remains near a four-decade high.

Last week, the Federal Reserve raised its short-term interest rate by a half-percentage point — its most aggressive move since 2000 — and signaled further large rate hikes to come. The increase in the Fed’s key rate raised it to a range of 0.75% to 1%, the highest point since the pandemic struck two years ago.