1 of 2 | In further signs of a cooling economy, the U.S. Labor Department said the four-week average for first-time jobless claims hit a level not seen since 2021. File photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
May 11 (UPI) -- The four-week moving average for jobless claims through the week ending May 6 was the highest it's been since November 2021, the U.S. government said Thursday.
The U.S. Labor Department reported first-time claims for unemployment insurance increased by 22,000 from last week to reach 264,000. The less-volatile, four-week moving average to the week ending May 6 was 245,250, an increase of 6,000 from last week.
"This is the highest level for this average since November 20, 2021, when it was 249,250," the department reported.
While initial claims jumped, the number of people who've filed over multiple weeks during the week ending April 22, its most recent data point, was 1.7 million, a decline of nearly 64,000 from the prior week.
At the same period last year, however, there were 1.44 million in continued-week claims.
The uptick in first-time claims may be welcome news for policymakers working to arrest consumer-level inflation. Jerome Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve, said in announcing a 25 basis point rate hike last week that his dual mandate was to ensure the labor market remains healthy while at the same time keeping prices stable.
Consumer-level inflation is moderating, with the core level about 3.5% below peak levels near 9% last year, though at 5.5%, inflation remains above the 2% target rate set by the Fed. Hiring over much of the first quarter, however, was resilient enough to incentivize demand.
More recent signs of a cooling economy are emerging.
"The labor market is weakening and that will continue as we finally start to see employers deliver on their previously announced job cut announcements," Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at New York brokerage OANDA, said in an emailed market report.
Elsewhere, wage growth may be moderating as well, which Moya said should give the Federal Reserve reason to consider a pause in rake hikes when it meets again in June.