New applications for unemployment benefits ticked down last week and hovered near historic lows, a sign the U.S. labor market remains tight despite indications of an economic slowdown.
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell to a seasonally adjusted 229,000 last week from the previous week’s revised level of 231,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is slightly above the 2019 prepandemic weekly average of 218,000, when the job market was also historically tight.
Claims have steadily climbed upward since hitting a 53-year low this spring. The four-week average for claims, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, increased to 223,500.
Thursday’s report showed continuing claims, a proxy for the total number of people receiving payments from state unemployment programs, rose to 1.32 million in the week ended June 11 from 1.31 million a week earlier. That is also a historically low level. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.
The U.S. labor market remains strong but is showing some signs of cooling. U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May—a robust gain that also was below the average monthly pace of growth earlier this year. Job openings slipped in April after hitting a record high in March. Wage gains are starting to taper off.
Overall, the U.S. economy is beginning to slow under the combined weight of soaring inflation and climbing interest rates. Sales of previously owned homes slid for a fourth straight month in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.41 million, the National Association of Realtors said earlier this week. Americans broadly cut spending at retailers for the first time this year in May, a Commerce Department report said last week.
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