Weekly jobless claims in the United States rise unexpectedly; the labor market is gradually healing

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People line up outside a recently reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville, US on April 15, 2021. REUTERS / Amira Karaoud

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing new jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week amid rising California, but the labor market continues to recover steadily.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 16,000 to seasonally adjusted 351,000 for the week ending Sept. 18, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 320,000 candidates for last week.

There was a jump of 24,221 unadjusted claims in California. This offset a sharp drop in deposits in Louisiana, devastated by Hurricane Ida in late August.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends because it eliminates week-to-week volatility, fell from 750 to 335,750 last week.

Claims fell from a record 6.149 million in early April 2020, but still remain above the 200,000-250,000 range considered consistent with healthy labor market conditions.

The Federal Reserve released an optimistic note on the economy on Wednesday, paving the way for a reduction “soon” in its monthly bond purchases and signaling that interest rate hikes could follow sooner than expected. Read more

Data on claims last week covered the period in which the government polled employers for the non-farm wage portion of the September jobs report.

Job growth slowed in August, with payrolls posting their lowest gain in seven months amid a hiring freeze in the high-contact leisure and hospitality sector as infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus have increased.

Factors related to the pandemic are causing labor shortages, limiting hiring. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters he expected “faster job gains” as these factors, including the lack of affordable child care and fears of contracting the virus, decrease.

There was a record 10.9 million vacancies at the end of July. The Fed has projected the unemployment rate at 4.8% this year. This was up from the 4.5% rate forecast by the US central bank in June. The unemployment rate was 5.2% in August

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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