US Jobless Claims Edge Lower, Reflecting Tight Labor Market

Applications for US unemployment insurance were little changed last week, suggesting the labor market remains exceptionally tight.

Initial unemployment claims decreased by 3,000 to 229,000 in the week ended June 11, Labor Department data showed Thursday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 217,000.

Continuing claims for state benefits were also little changed at 1.31 million in the week ended June 4, hovering near the lowest since 1969.

The report is consistent with a robust labor market in which layoffs remain extremely low. The unemployment rate is hovering near a five-decade low and there are roughly two job openings for every unemployed worker. Even so, recession fears are growing as the Federal Reserve aggressively hikes interest rates to tame inflation, and a growing number of companies have announced job cuts in recent days.

The Fed on Wednesday raised interest rates the most since 1994, and has signaled aggressive policy tightening through the rest of the year to curb demand and therefore price pressures. Policy makers reckon that’ll take the unemployment rate up to 4.1% at the end of 2024, but Fed Chair Jerome Powell emphasized that rate would still be historically low.