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U.S. Applications for Jobless Benefits Inch Up

But layoffs remain historically low.

A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Palatine, Ill., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
A hiring sign is displayed at a restaurant in Palatine, Ill., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Slightly more Americans applied for jobless claims last week, but layoffs remain low and the labor market continues to show resiliency amid elevated interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve.

Applications for unemployment benefits ticked up by 2,000 to 207,000 for the week ending Sept. 30, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Jobless claim applications are considered a proxy for the number of layoffs in a given week.

The four-week moving average of claims, a less volatile measure, fell by 2,500 to 208,750.

Though the Federal Reserve opted to leave its benchmark borrowing rate alone at its meeting two weeks ago, it is well into the second year of its battle to knock down persistent inflation. The central bank has raised its benchmark rate 11 times since March of 2022, with part of its goal to cool hiring and bring down wages. But the labor market has held up better than expected.

On Tuesday, the government reported that job openings jumped unexpectedly in August, with American employers posting 9.6 million job openings, up from 8.9 million in July and the first uptick in three months. Analyst were expecting vacancies to remain flat from July.

The government reported that U.S. employers added a healthy 187,000 jobs in August. Though the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.8%, it's still low by historical measures. The Labor Department issues its September jobs report on Friday.

U.S. businesses have been adding an average of about 236,000 jobs per month this year, down from the pandemic surge of the previous two years, but still a strong number.

Besides some layoffs early this year — mostly in the technology sector — companies have been trying to retain workers.

Overall, 1.67 million people were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended Sept. 23, about 5,000 fewer than the previous week.

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