WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week fell to its lowest level in 52 years as the U.S. job market continues to show strength amid rising costs and an ongoing virus pandemic.
Unemployment claims fell 28,000 to 187,000 for the week ending March 19, the lowest since September 1969, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The first applications for unemployment assistance generally follow the rhythm of layoffs.
The four-week average of claims, which offset weekly volatility, also fell to levels not seen in five decades. The Labor Department said the four-week moving average fell to 211,750 from 223,250 the previous week.
A total of 1,350,000 Americans were receiving unemployment assistance the week ending March 12, another five-decade low.
Earlier this month, the government announced that employers added 678,000 jobs in February, the highest monthly total since July. The jobless rate fell to 3.8% from 4% in January, extending a sharp drop in unemployment to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago.
Businesses in the United States posted a near-record level of open jobs in January – 11.3 million – a trend that has helped to boost workers’ wages and add to inflationary pressures.
The Federal Reserve launched a high-risk effort last week to rein in the worst inflation since the early 1980s, raising its benchmark short-term interest rate and signaling up to six more rate hikes this year.
The quarter-point hike in its key rate, which it had pinned near zero since the start of the pandemic recession two years ago, marks the start of its efforts to rein in the high inflation that followed the exit. of recession. Rate hikes will eventually mean higher lending rates for many consumers and businesses.
Central bank policymakers have forecast inflation to remain elevated, ending 2022 at 4.3%.
Earlier this month, the government announced that consumer inflation jumped 7.9% over the past year, the biggest rise since 1982.
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