The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week rose to an eight-month high, in a possible sign that the labor market is weakening.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims rose 7,000 to 251,000 for the week ended July 16 from 244,000 the previous week. This is the highest level since Nov. 13, 2021, when 265,000 Americans applied for benefits.
Analysts polled by data firm FactSet had expected 242,000.
Initial filings usually reflect layoffs.
The four-week moving average, which removes some of the weekly volatility, rose 4,500 from the previous week to 240,500.
The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits rose 51,000 from the previous week to 1,384,000 in the week ended July 9. The number has been near a 50-year low for several months.
Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that employers added a staggering 372,000 jobs in June, similar to the previous two months. Economists had expected job growth to slow sharply over the past month amid signs of broader economic weakness.
The unemployment rate held at 3.6% for the fourth straight month, hitting a near 50-year low before the pandemic hit in early 2020.
The government also reported in early July that U.S. employers posted fewer jobs in May as the economy slowed, but overall demand for labor remained strong. Almost every unemployed person has two job opportunities.
Consumer prices are still rising, the government reported last week, rising 9.1 percent in June from a year earlier, the largest annual gain since 1981.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week was the highest in nearly eight months, but the total number of people filing for unemployment benefits fell. The Labor Department also reported last week that inflation at the wholesale level rose 11.3% in June from a year earlier.
All of these numbers paint a mixed picture of the post-pandemic economy: Inflation has strained household budgets, forcing consumers to rein in spending, and growth has slowed, fueling fears the economy could slip into recession.
To combat the worst inflation in more than 40 years, the Fed raised interest rates by half a percentage point in May and again last month by a rare three-quarters rate. Most economists expect the Fed to raise lending rates by another half to three-quarters when it meets later this month.
While the job market remains strong, there have been some high-profile layoffs recently at Tesla, Netflix, Carvana, Redfin, and Coinbase.
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