The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose for a third straight week last week to the highest in eight months, suggesting some cooling in the labor market amid tighter monetary policy and financial conditions.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 251,000 for the week ended July 16 from a unrevised 244,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 240,000 applications for the latest week.
With employment booming through the last year, claims fell to a near-record low in March and had been hovering around 230,000 since June before the previous week’s increase to the highest since last November. Still, they remain below the level most economists see as presenting a threatening signal for the job market and economy more widely.
There have been reports of layoffs in the interest rate-sensitive housing and manufacturing industries. Despite some loss of momentum, hiring has remained robust, with 372,000 jobs created in June and a broader measure of unemployment falling to a record low.
Demand for labor remains fairly strong, as well. There were 11.3 million job openings at the end of May, with nearly two job openings for every unemployed person.
The Federal Reserve is expected to raise its policy rate by another 75 basis points at the end of this month, a call that was bolstered by annual consumer prices surging 9.1% in June, the largest increase since November 1981.
The U.S. central bank has hiked its overnight interest rate by 150 basis points since March.
The number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose by 51,000 to 1.384 million, the highest since April, during the week ending July 9, the claims report showed.