US filings for jobless claims inch up modestly, but continuing claims rise for ninth straight week

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits inched up last week and remain historically low, however the total number of people collecting jobless benefits continues to grow.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that jobless claims for the week ending June 29 rose by 4,000 to 238,000 from 234,000 the previous week. The data was issued one day earlier than its regular Thursday release due to the July Fourth holiday.

The total number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits rose for the ninth straight week, to 1.86 million, for the week of June 22. That’s the most since November of 2021.

Analysts say that continuing claims rise because many of those who are already unemployed may now be having a harder time finding new work.

Weekly unemployment claims — widely considered as representative of layoffs — remain at low levels by historical standards, a sign that most Americans enjoy unusual job security. Still, after mostly staying below 220,000 this year, weekly claims have steadily moved up recently.

The four-week average of claims, which softens some of the week-to-week volatility, rose by 2,250 to 238,500.

The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark borrowing rate 11 times beginning in March of 2022 in an attempt to extinguish the four-decade high inflation that shook the economy after it rebounded from the COVID-19 recession of 2020. The Fed’s intention was to cool off a red-hot labor market and slow wage growth, which can fuel inflation.

Many economists had expected the rapid rate hikes would trigger a recession, but so far that hasn’t happened, thanks in large part to strong consumer demand and sturdier-than-expected labor market.

But recent government data suggest that some cracks are beginning to show.

Applications for jobless benefits are trending higher in June after mostly staying below 220,000 this year. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4% in May, despite the fact that America’s employers added a strong 272,000 jobs last month. Job postings in May rose slightly to 8.1 million, however, April’s figure was revised lower to 7.9 million, the first reading below 8 million since February 2021.

The government issues its June jobs report on Friday.

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