The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week hit its highest level in more than eight months

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week hit its highest level in more than eight months, which could be a sign the labor market is weakening.

Claims for unemployment assistance for the week ending July 16 rose by 7,000 to 251,000, from 244,000 the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That’s the most since Nov. 13, 2021, when 265,000 Americans applied for benefits.

Analysts polled by data firm FactSet expected the number to hit 242,000.

The first requests generally reflect layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which dampens some of the week-to-week volatility, rose 4,500 from the previous week to 240,500.

The total number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits for the week ending July 9 rose by 51,000 from the previous week, to 1,384,000. That figure has been near 50-year lows for months .

Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that employers added 372,000 jobs in June, a surprisingly robust gain and similar to the pace of the previous two months. Economists had expected job growth to slow sharply last month given broader signs of economic weakness.

The unemployment rate remained at 3.6% for a fourth consecutive month, matching a nearly 50-year low that had been reached before the pandemic hit in early 2020.

The government also reported earlier in July that US employers announced fewer jobs in May amid signs of a weakening economy, although overall demand for workers remained strong. There are nearly two job vacancies for every unemployed person.

Consumer prices continue to soar, up 9.1% in June from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase since 1981, the government announced last week.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week hit its highest level in nearly 8 months, but the total number of those collecting benefits fell. The Labor Department also reported last week that wholesale inflation rose 11.3% in June from a year earlier.

All of these numbers paint a diverging picture of the post-pandemic economy: Inflation is hammering household budgets, forcing consumers to cut back on spending, and growth is weakening, heightening fears that the economy could fall. in recession.

In an effort to tackle the worst inflation in more than four decades, the Federal Reserve raised rates by half a point in May and another rare three-quarter point hike last month. Most economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise its borrowing rate by a half to three-quarters point when it meets later this month.

Although the job market is still strong, high profile layoffs have recently been announced by Tesla, Netflix, Carvana, Redfin and Coinbase.

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