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US unemployment claims fall to the lowest level in nine weeks

Fewer Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past week as the job market continues to hold up despite higher interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve in its effort to curb inflation.


What you need to know

  • Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the past week as the job market continues to hold up despite higher interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve in its effort to curb inflation
  • The Department of Labor reported Thursday that unemployment claims for the week ending April 20 fell by 5,000 to 207,000, compared to 212,000 the week before.
  • Weekly unemployment claims are considered a measure of the number of US layoffs in a given week and a sign of where the labor market is heading
  • A total of 1.78 million Americans received unemployment benefits during the week ending April 13

The Department of Labor reported Thursday that unemployment claims for the week ending April 20 fell by 5,000 to 207,000, compared to 212,000 the week before. That is the least since mid-February.

The four-week average of claims, which smooths out some of the weekly increases and decreases, fell 1,250 to 213,250.

Weekly unemployment claims are considered a measure of the number of layoffs in the U.S. in a given week and a sign of where the labor market is going. They have remained at historically low levels since the pandemic purge of millions of jobs in spring 2020.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates 11 times starting in March 2022 in an effort to quell four-decade high inflation that emerged after the economy recovered from the COVID-19 recession four years ago. The Fed’s intention was to ease the labor market and slow wage growth, which it said contributed to persistently high inflation.

Many economists thought there was a chance that the rapid rate hikes could trigger a recession, but employment remained plentiful and the economy grew thanks to strong consumer spending.

Last month, U.S. employers added a surprising 303,000 jobs, yet another example of the U.S. economy’s resilience in the face of high interest rates. The unemployment rate fell from 3.9% to 3.8% and has now remained below 4% for 26 months in a row, the longest streak since the 1960s.

While layoffs remain at low levels, companies have recently announced more job cuts, especially in the technology and media sectors. Google parent company Alphabet, Apple, eBay, TikTok, Snap, Amazon, Cisco Systems and the Los Angeles Times have all recently announced layoffs.

Outside of technology and media, UPS, Macy’s, Tesla and Levi Strauss have also recently cut jobs.

A total of 1.78 million Americans received unemployment benefits during the week ending April 13. That is 15,000 less than the week before.