US Weekly Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1969; further claims shrink

A ‘Now Hiring’ sign is displayed outside a Burlington Coat Factory retail store on March 11, 2022 in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Patrick T Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

Claims for US jobless benefits fell to a 52-1/2 year low last week, while the number of Americans out of work continued to shrink, pointing to a rapidly narrowing job gap that will keep wage inflation rising.

Initial jobless claims fell by 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 187,000 in the week ended March 19, the lowest since September 1969, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 212,000 applications last week. Claims have fallen from a record high of 6.149 million in early April 2020.

There is no sign yet that Russia’s month-long war against Ukraine, which has pushed US gasoline prices to record highs and is expected to worsen the strain on global supply chains, has impacted the labor market.

Companies are desperately looking for workers. At the end of January there were 11.3 million job vacancies, with a record 1.8 job vacancies per unemployed person.

This mismatch between labor demand and supply fuels wage growth, giving households some protection against rising gasoline prices and leading to high inflation.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 25 basis points last week, the first hike in more than three years. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Monday the Federal Reserve needs to act “quickly” to hike rates and potentially “more aggressively” to prevent high inflation from taking hold.

The claims report also showed that the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of assistance fell by 67,000 to 1.350 million in the week ended March 12, the lowest since January 1970. The data on so-called continuing claims covered the period when the government surveyed households for the unemployment rate in March.

Continued applications declined between the February and March survey periods. The unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 3.8% in February. US Weekly Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1969; further claims shrink

Jane Marczewski

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