Fewer Americans apply for jobless aid last week

WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. job market remains strong in the face of rising inflation and interest rates.

Applications for jobless aid fell by 3,000 to 229,000 for the week ending June 11, down from the previous week’s 232,000, the Labor Department reported today. First-time applications generally represent the number of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week volatility, rose by 2,750 from the previous week, to 218,500.

The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending June 4 was 1,312,000. That figure has hovered near 50-year lows for months.

While Americans have enjoyed historically strong job security and higher wages recently, much of that has been offset by four-decade high inflation.

The Labor Department reported last week that consumer prices surged 8.6% last month — even more than in April — from a year earlier. The Federal Reserve responded by raising its main borrowing rate by three-quarters of a point on Wednesday, its main tool for fighting rising prices. Wednesday’s increase is on top of a half-point increase in early May.

Earlier this month, the government reported that U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May, extending a streak of solid hiring that has bolstered an economy under pressure. Though the job growth in May was healthy, it was the lowest monthly gain in a year and there have been signs that more layoffs could be on the horizon.

Jobless claims application this week and last week, though relatively low, were the highest since the first weeks of the year.

Online automotive retailer Carvana said last month that it’s letting go about 2,500 workers, roughly 12% of its workforce. Online real estate broker Redfin, under pressure from a housing market that’s cooled due to higher interest rates, said Tuesday that it was laying off 8% of its workers.