U.S. Workers Filing Fewer Unemployment Applications

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, perhaps signalling a continuing strength in the job market in the face of the Federal Reserve’s continuing fight against inflation.

The number of workers filing for benefits remains historically low even as the inflation rate continues its stubborn fight.

Jobless claims for the week ending May 18 fellto 215,000 in the week ending May 18, according to statistics released Thursday by the Labor Department. That’s down some 8,000 from the previous week.

The four-week average of claims rose slightly, up by 1,750 to 219,750.

Weekly unemployment claims have remained at historically low levels since millions of jobs were lost when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in the spring of 2020.

In its effort to combat inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark borrowing rate 11 times since March 2022. The Fed’s intention was to loosen the labor market and cool wage growth, which can fuel inflation.

Many economists thought there was a chance the rapid rate hikes could cause a recession, but jobs remain plentiful and the economy still broadly healthy thanks to strong consumer spending, the Associated Press reported.

Last month, the U.S. economy added only 175,000 jobs, the fewest it gained in six months. The unemployment rate crept back up to 3.9% from 3.8% and has now remained below 4% for 27 straight months, the longest such streak since the 1960s.

The government also recently reported 8.5 million job openings in March, the lowest number of vacancies in three years.

A total of 1.79 million Americans were collecting jobless benefits during the week that ended May 11, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week and 84,000 more than the same time one year ago.