Applications for Unemployment Benefits Rise, But Levels Remain Historically Low

    Layoffs remain historically low, and the unemployment rate is still low, but first-time applications for unemployment assistance are on the rise.

    According to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor, applications for unemployment benefits rose to 224,000 for the week ending Jan. 27.

    That’s 9,000 more than the previous week and represents the highest total for those applications in nearly three months.

    The four-week average of claims rose by 5,250, to 207,750.

    Weekly unemployment claims have remained at extraordinarily low levels despite efforts by the U.S. Federal Reserve to cool the economy.

    The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark rate 11 times since March 2022 in its fight against a stubborn inflation rate.

    Though inflation has eased considerably – it was 9.1% in June 2022, and down to 3.4% earlier this month — the Labor Department reported recently that overall prices rose 0.3% from November to December and were up 3.4% from 12 months earlier, a sign that the Fed’s drive to slow inflation to its 2% target will likely remain a bumpy one, the Associated Press reported.

    The Fed has left rates alone at its last four meetings. But the AP reported that, as the Fed rapidly increasaed rates in 2022, most analysts predicted that the U.S. economy would tip into recession. The economy and the job market, however, have remained surprisingly resilient, with the unemployment rate staying below 4% for 23 straight months, the longest such streak since the 1960s.

    The government issues its January jobs report on Friday.

    Overall, 1.9 million Americans were collecting jobless benefits during the week that ended Jan. 20, an increase of 70,000 from the previous week. That’s the most since mid-November.