Jobless claims rise again to highest level since November

New applications for unemployment benefits rose slightly in the first month of August to the highest level since November, according to Labor Department data released Thursday.

Jobless claims totaled 262,000 in the week ending Aug. 6, up 14,000 from the previous week’s revised total. Claims continue to hover around pre-pandemic levels, but they’ve risen in five out of the last six weeks.

The four-week average of claims rose 4,500 to 252,000, according to the report.

Economists are closely monitoring jobless claims to gauge whether interest rate hikes are causing businesses to cut back on jobs, an indicator of an economic slowdown. The Federal Reserve has raised rates by 2.25 percent to fight 40-year high inflation.

While jobless claims are ticking up, the U.S. added 528,000 jobs in July, more than double the figure economists expected, and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent, tying a 50-year low.

Meanwhile, annual consumer prices were up 8.5 percent last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a slowdown from June’s 9.1 percent figure. Wholesale prices dropped 0.5 percent, another sign that inflation may be easing.

The Federal Reserve will consider the strong job numbers and the surprisingly good inflation report as it weighs additional rate hikes to bring prices down.

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