Economic Report: U.S. unemployment claims stay near five-month high. Are layoffs rising?


The numbers: New filings for unemployment benefits fell by 3,000 last week to 229,000, but they remained close to a five-month high, perhaps a sign that layoffs have increased slightly from record-low levels.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal forecast initial jobless claims to total 220,000 in the seven days ended June 11. The figures are seasonally adjusted.

Raw or actual jobless claims showed a larger increase.

Last week new filings jumped to the highest level since January, but the increase appeared to stem from seasonal quirks tied to the Memorial Day holiday. Holidays can sometimes produce e sharp swings in the claims figures.

It’s unclear if there was any residual effect from the holiday in the latest claims figures.

The four-week average of new jobless claims, which smooths out the temporary ups and downs, rose to 218,500 from 215,750. That’s also the highest level since January.

Big picture: Job openings are high and layoffs are low, but the prospect of a slowing economy could cast a chill on a sizzling labor market later this year.

The Federal Reserve plans to rapidly raise interest rates to try to tame high inflation. The rising cost of borrowing could dampen U.S. growth and even tip the economy into recession if the central bank goes too far.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

were set to fall sharply in Thursday trades, a day after the Fed raised interest rates by the most in 28 years.

Oil prices move higher on tight supplies

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