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Filings for jobless claims tick up modestly, continuing claims fall

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U.S. applications for jobless benefits ticked up last week, but the overall number of people in the U.S. collecting unemployment benefits fell after hitting its highest level in two years last week.

Unemployment benefits claims rose by 1,000 to 220,000 for the week ending Dec. 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was in line with analyst expectations.

About 1.86 million were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended Nov. 25, 64,000 fewer than the previous week. It’s just the second time in 11 weeks that continuing claims have fallen.

Analysts say the continuing claims have been rising because many of those who are already unemployed may now be having a harder time finding new work. That comports with a government report earlier this week showing that U.S. employers posted 8.7 million job openings in October, the fewest since March of 2021.

Jobless claim applications are seen as representative of the number of layoffs in a given week.

Hiring has slowed from the breakneck pace of 2021 and 2022 when the economy rebounded from the COVID-19 recession. Employers added a record 606,000 jobs a month in 2021 and nearly 400,000 per month last year. The past five months, job gains have slipped to an average of 190,000 per month, down from an average of 287,000 in the first five months of the year.

Analysts forecast that U.S. private non-farm job gains will come in around 173,000 when the government issues its November jobs report on Friday.

The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate 11 times since March 2022 to slow the economy and rein in inflation that hit a four-decade high last year. The job market and economic growth remained surprisingly resilient, defying predictions that the economy would slip into a recession this year.

Labor’s layoffs data Thursday also showed that the four-week moving average of jobless claim applications — which flattens out some of weekly volatility — ticked up by 500 to 220,750.

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