More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but layoffs are at historically low levels
WASHINGTON – More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but layoffs are at historic lows.
Unemployment claims rose 14,000 to 202,000 in the week ended March 26, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week’s number of 188,000 claims was the lowest since 1969. 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 218,000 from the previous week’s 208,500.
In all, 1,307,000 Americans collected unemployment benefits for the week ending March 19, the lowest since December 1969.
According to the latest government data, 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. The government reported job data for March on Friday, and analysts forecast that the U.S. economy gained 477,500 jobs a month.
The start of jobs in February was near record levels, slightly changed compared to the previous month, continuing a trend that Federal Reserve officials see as a driver of inflation. Last month there were 11.3 million jobs available, matching January figures and just below the December record of 11.4 million, the Labor Department said Tuesday.
The number of Americans quitting their jobs was also historically higher at 4.4 million, up from 4.3 million in January. More than 4.5 million people left in November, the highest on record in two decades.
The Federal Reserve launched a high-risk effort two weeks ago in an effort to control the worst inflation in the early 1980s, its benchmark raising short-term interest rates and indicating 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 estimate that inflation will rise to 4.3% by 2022.
Also on Thursday, an inflation gauge closely monitored by the Federal Reserve jumped 6.4% in February from a year earlier, pushing sharply higher prices for Americans for food, gasoline and other essentials.