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More Americans are applying for unemployment assistance in the past week

More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but the total number of people receiving unemployment assistance is at its lowest level in more than 50 years

WASHINGTON — More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but the total number of people collecting unemployment benefits is at its lowest level in more than 50 years.

Unemployment claims in the United States rose by 19,000 to 200,000 for the week ending April 30, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The first applications generally reflect the number of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which dampens some of the weekly volatility, rose 8,000 from the previous week to 188,000.

The total number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits for the week ending April 23 fell by 19,000 from the previous week, to 1,384,000. It was the fewest since January 17, 1970.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. employers posted a record 11.5 million job openings in March, a record two job openings for every unemployed person. A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March, a sign they are confident they can find better pay or working conditions elsewhere.

Employers have added more than 540,000 jobs per month on average over the past year, pushing the unemployment rate down to 3.6%. The Labor Department is expected to report on Friday that the economy generated an additional 400,000 new jobs in April, according to a survey by data firm FactSet. It would mark an unprecedented 12th consecutive month where hiring reached 400,000 or more.

The only thing hotter than the job market is inflation. The Federal Reserve stepped up its fight against the worst inflation in 40 years on Wednesday by raising its benchmark short-term interest rate by half a percentage point – its most aggressive move since 2000 – and signaling new significant rate hikes ahead.

The hike in the Fed’s key rate took it to a range of 0.75% to 1%, the highest point since the pandemic hit two years ago.

The Commerce Department reported last month that the US economy contracted in the last quarter for the first time since the pandemic recession hit two years ago, contracting at an annual rate of 1.4%, even as consumers and businesses continued to spend as a sign of underlying resilience.

ABC News

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