WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Fewer Americans applied for jobless aid last week with the number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits already near five-decade lows.
The latest report released by the Labor Department Thursday showed jobless claims sink by 11,000 to 200,000. The four-week average of claims, which levels out week-to-week volatility, decreased by 500 to 207,000.
American workers are enjoying historically strong job security two years after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the economy into a brief but devastating recession. Weekly applications for unemployment aid have been consistently below the pre-pandemic level of 225,000 for most of 2022, even as the overall economy contracted in the first quarter.
The jobs report for May is expected Friday. Last month, the government reported America’s employers added 428,000 jobs in April, leaving the unemployment rate at 3.6%, just above the lowest level in a half-century. Hiring gains have been strikingly consistent in the face of the worst inflation in four decades, with employers adding at least 400,000 jobs for 12 straight months.
The Federal Reserve last month ratcheted up its fight against the worst inflation in 40 years by raising its benchmark short-term interest rate by a half-percentage point — its most aggressive move since 2000 — and signaling further large rate hikes to come. The increase in the Fed’s key rate raised it to a range of 0.75% to 1%, the highest point since the pandemic struck in March of 2020.
The healthy level of open jobs shows that companies are still trying to add staff and grow, even as inflation hovers near a 40-year high and the Federal Reserve has embarked on what could be its fastest pace of interest rate hikes since the 1980s.
Inflation at the consumer level eased slightly in April after months of relentless increases but remained near a four-decade high. Consumer prices jumped 8.3% last month from a year ago, just below the 8.5% year-over-year surge in March, which was the highest since 1981.
There had been some speculation that the Fed may consider a rate hike pause at its September meeting, but such hopes diminished after a report Wednesday from the Institute for Supply Management showing that manufacturing growth accelerated last month, contrary to economists’ expectations for a slowdown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.