Fewer Americans filed for unemployment claims last week

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as cuts continue to decline amid a strong rebound in the job market.

WASHINGTON – Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as cuts continue amid a strong rebound in the job market.

Unemployment claims fell 15,000 to 214,000 in the week ended March 12, down from 229,000 in the previous week, 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 223,000 from 231,750 in the previous week.

In all, 1,419,000 Americans – 50-year-olds – were collecting unemployment benefits in the week ended March 5, down 71,000 from the previous week.

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 on Wednesday 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.

According to quarterly estimates released on Wednesday, central bank policymakers expect inflation to rise to 4.3% by 2022.

Last week, the government reported that consumer price inflation jumped 7.9% year-on-year, the sharpest increase since 1982.

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