WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose slightly last week but remained at a historically low level that points to a robust job market.
Applications for jobless aid rose 6,000 to 227,000 for the week ending July 29, the Labor Department said today. The four-week moving average of claims, a less volatile measure, fell 5,500 to 228,250.
Jobless benefit applications are seen as a proxy for the number of layoffs in a given week. Today’s report comes just a day before the July jobs report will be released, which will provide a broader and more detailed look at the labor market and economy.
Economists forecast the report will show that employers added a solid 200,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate will be unchanged at 3.6%, near a half-century low.
The Federal Reserve has implemented 11 interest rate hikes in the past 17 months in an effort to cool the economy and combat inflation. Yet hiring has remained stubbornly strong, and layoffs — despite high-profile job cuts at many tech and media companies — have stayed unusually low.
Many companies struggled to replenish their workforces after cutting jobs during the pandemic, and much of the ongoing hiring likely reflects efforts by many firms to catch up to elevated levels of consumer demand that have emerged since the pandemic recession.
While some industries — such as manufacturing, warehousing, and retail — have slowed their hiring in recent months, they aren’t yet cutting jobs in large numbers. Economists suspect that given the difficulties so many businesses had finding workers in the past two years, they will likely hold onto them as long as possible, even if the economy weakens.