US Jobless Claims Hit Three-Month High as Labor Market Cools

Applications for US unemployment benefits rose last week to a three-month high amid a wave of layoffs at technology companies, a sign of cooling in a tight labor market.

Initial unemployment claims increased by 17,000 to 240,000 in the week ended Nov. 19, Labor Department data showed Wednesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 225,000.

Continuing claims, which include people who have already received unemployment benefits for a week or more, rose by 48,000 to 1.55 million in the week ended Nov. 12, the highest since March. That was also the sixth weekly increase in a row.

Economists have been watching continuing claims more closely in recent weeks because they have been warning indicators of recessions in the past. Although the gauge is up from lows in May this year, it’s still well below last year’s levels and historical averages.

The Federal Reserve has embarked on its most aggressive tightening campaign since the 1980s this year in an effort to tame the highest inflation in a generation. The steep interest-rate hikes have had an impact on sectors such as housing and construction, but overall the labor market has remained robust.

The list of high-profile technology companies announcing job cuts or hiring freezes has been growing, from Inc. to Facebook parent company Meta Inc. and personal-computer maker HP Inc., which said this week it would eliminate as many as 6,000 jobs.