Initial jobless claims fell slightly last week, although they were consistent with a rise in layoffs that began in the spring, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
In the week ending Aug. 13, the number of jobless claims was 250,000, down 2,000 from the previous week and below the 260,000 Dow Jones estimate.
The four-week moving average for claims, which is helping to smooth out weekly volatility, also fell 2,750 to 246,750.
Earlier this year, the claims had hit their lowest level in more than 50 years, but started rising in April from a low of 166,000. The four-week moving average has increased by nearly 80,000 in that time.
Continuing claims, which are a week behind the total number, were 1,437 million, up 7,000.
Policymakers are closely monitoring the job market at a time when inflation has been high for nearly 40 years. Federal Reserve officials have introduced a series of rate hikes aimed in part at cooling a job market in which there are nearly two jobs open to every available worker.
At their July meeting, Fed officials noted “preliminary signs of an easing job market outlook,” including a rise in weekly claims, according to minutes released Wednesday. Policymakers said they were determined to continue raising interest rates until inflation was under control, even if it meant more of a hiring slowdown.
“Unfortunately, what’s good for the American worker is bad for the Fed’s attempt to bring inflation down to 2% and this will complicate their work and cause them to raise interest rates higher and longer than many people currently expect.” said Chris Zaccarelli, Chief Investment Officer for Independent Investor Alliance.
In other economic news Thursday, the Philadelphia Fed reported that its monthly manufacturing survey for August rose to 6.2, representing the percentage difference between companies expecting expansion versus contraction. That was an improvement from the minus 12.3 in July.
The level was above a minus-5 estimate and helped allay fears that production was heading for a major slowdown. A similar survey on Monday from the New York Fed dropped a whopping 40 points as respondents indicated business conditions were deteriorating.
Prices paid and received indices declined during the month, although they remain well at levels indicating that inflation is still present. Hiring also improved, as did new orders, although the latter was still at minus 5.1.