US unemployment claims stay low

(NewsNation) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits ticked down slightly last week.

The latest report released by the Labor Department Thursday showed jobless claims decreased by 2,000 to 243,000. The four-week average of claims, which levels out week-to-week volatility, increased by 1,500 to 247,000.

U.S. employers added 528,000 jobs in July, according to the Labor Department, more than double what forecasters had expected. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5%, tying a 50-year low reached just before coronavirus pandemic slammed the U.S. economy in early 2020.

But there are other challenges. Consumer prices have been surging, rising 8.5% in July from a year earlier — down slightly from June’s 40-year high 9.1%. To combat inflation, the Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark short-term interest rate four times this year.

On Friday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell will deliver a speech that could shed more light on how high or how fast the central bank may raise interest rates in the coming months.

Despite a still-robust job market, the U.S. economy shrank in the first half of 2022, raising fears of a potential recession. Growth has been weakening largely as a consequence of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes, which are intended to cool the economy and tame high inflation.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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