Initial jobless claims fell slightly last week, although consistent with an increase in layoffs that began in the spring, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
Jobless claims totaled 250k for the week ended August 13, down 2k from the previous week and below the Dow Jones estimate of 260k.
The four-week moving average for claims, which is helping to offset weekly volatility, also fell 2,750 to 246,750.
Earlier this year, claims had hit their lowest level in more than 50 years but started to climb higher in April after a low of 166,000. The four-week moving average is up nearly 80,000 during that time.
Current claims, a week behind the headline figure, totaled 1.437 million, up from 7,000.
Policymakers are watching the job market closely at a time when inflation is nearing a 40-year high. Federal Reserve officials have rolled out a series of rate hikes aimed in part at cooling a job market that has nearly two positions open for every available worker.
At their July meeting, Fed officials noted “preliminary signs of a weakening outlook for the job market,” including an increase in weekly applications, according to minutes released Wednesday. Policymakers said they are determined to keep raising interest rates until inflation is brought under control, even if that means more of a slowdown in hiring.
“Unfortunately, what’s good for American workers is bad for the Fed’s attempt to bring inflation back to 2%, and this will complicate their job and result in them raising rates higher and longer than many people are doing right now expect,” said Chris Zaccarelli. Chief Investment Officer of the Independent Investor Alliance.
In other news on Thursday, the Philadelphia Fed reported that its monthly August manufacturing survey rose to a reading of 6.2, which represents the percentage difference between companies expecting expansion versus contraction. That was an improvement from minus 12.3 in July.
The level was above the minus 5 estimate and helped allay fears that production could be headed for a major slowdown. A similar survey by the New York Fed on Monday fell a staggering 40 points as respondents said business conditions were deteriorating.
Indices of prices paid and received fell during the month but remain well within a range that suggests inflation is still present. Hiring improved, as did new orders, although the latter was still down -5.1.