U.S. unemployment claims dip to 184,000 and stay near 54-year low

Jobless claims are near the lowest level since the late 1960s

The numbers: New U.S. jobless claims fell slightly to 184,000 in mid-April and stayed near a 54-year low, reflecting a tight labor market in which work is easy to find and layoffs are at record lows.

New filings for unemployment benefits slipped by 2,000 from 186,000 in the prior week,  the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal forecast initial jobless claims to total a seasonally adjusted 182,000 in the seven days ended April 16.

Layoffs are extremely low thanks to the tightest labor market in decades. New jobless claims have totaled fewer than 200,000 in 10 of the past 11 weeks and recently touched the lowest level since 1968.

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Big picture:  It’s a great time for workers. The U.S. has record job openings but not enough people to fill them. Many are leaving one job for another, often getting higher pay and better working conditions in the process.

The strong U.S. labor market is the economy’s biggest buffer against recession, especially with the Federal Reserve moving to raise interest rates to try to tame inflation.

Rising prices are robbing Americans of the benefits of higher wages, however.

Key details: Raw, or unadjusted, jobless claims fell in 38 states, most notably Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Texas.

The only state to post a sizable increase was Connecticut.

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The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, meanwhile, declined by 58,000 to 1.42 million in the week ended April 9. That’s the lowest level since 1970.

These so-called continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag.

The federal government recently switched back to its old method of tallying up claims that it used before the pandemic now that employment patterns have stabilized.

Looking ahead: “Demand for labor is strong and there are no reasons to believe that this will change any time soon,” said Thomas Simons, money market economist at Jefferies LLC.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.41%, and S&P 500 SPX, +0.37% were set to open higher in Thursday trades.

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