Americans are applying for unemployment benefits, the lowest since 1969

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a 52-year low last week as the U.S. job market continues to show strength amid rising costs and the ongoing virus epidemic.

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a 52-year low last week as the U.S. job market continues to show strength amid rising costs and an ongoing virus epidemic.

Unemployment claims fell 28,000 to 187,000 in the week ended March 19, the lowest since September 1969, the Labor Department said Thursday. First-time applications for unemployment assistance usually track the pace of retrenchment.

The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell to 221,750 from 223,250 in the previous week.

In all, 1,350,000 Americans – under the age of 50 – were collecting unemployment benefits in the week ending March 12.

Earlier this month, the government said employers added a strong 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8%, from 4% in January, the sharpest drop in unemployment since the epidemic began two years ago.

U.S. businesses posted near-record level open jobs in January – 11.3 million – a trend that has helped pad workers pay and add to inflationary pressures.

The Federal Reserve launched a high-risk effort last week to control the worst inflation in the early 1980s, raising its benchmark short-term interest rates and signaling six additional rate hikes this year.

The Fed’s quarterly-point increase in key rates, which pinned it close to zero since the epidemic recession two years ago, triggered its efforts to control high inflation after recovering from the recession. Rate increases mean higher debt rates for many consumers and businesses.

Central bank policymakers predict that inflation will end at 4.3% by 2022.

Earlier this month, the government reported that consumer price inflation jumped 7.9% year-on-year, the sharpest increase since 1982.

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