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Over the past week, the number of unemployment applications has risen to 200,000

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New applications for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since early April amid other signs that the U.S. labor market remains unusually tense.

Initial applications for unemployment, proxy for dismissal, increased by 19 thousand to 200,000 last week from the revised level of 181,000 last week, the labor ministry said Thursday.

Applications for unemployment benefits remain close to the historic low since the end of 2021. The four-week average, which smooths out the volatility of weekly figures, rose to 188,000 from 180,000 revised the previous week. The four-week average reached 170,500 last month, the lowest record since 1967.

Fixed claims, representing the total number of people receiving benefits under state unemployment programs, fell to 1.4 million in the week ended April 23, compared with the previous week’s lowest level since January 1970. lag behind.

“Despite the increase, claims remain at levels that are extremely tight in the labor market,” wrote Nancy Vanden Houten, a leading American economist at Oxford Economics, in a note. “Even as the economy slows in response to high inflation and rising interest rates, we expect employers to be more likely to slow hiring than to lay off workers.”

The low level of applications for unemployment is one of the few signs of a reliable labor market, which has a strong growth in jobs and high demand for workers.

The Ministry of Labor on Friday will publish employment figures for April. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal estimate that employers added 400,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5% from 3.6% the previous month.

Since May last year, every month the growth of jobs has exceeded 400,000 people, the longest such strip since 1939and the 3.6% unemployment rate in March was close to the low reached on the eve of the pandemic.

The monthly report on jobs shows the main indicators of the labor market and the general state of the economy, but does not show the full picture. The WSJ explains how to read a report of what it shows and what it doesn’t. Photo illustration: Liz Ornitz

Jobs and the number of times workers quit their jobs were at a record high in March, the Labor Ministry said this week. That’s nearly two vacancies for every unemployed person this month.

Dense labor market put pressure on wages. The average hourly wage, which in March was 5.6% higher than the same period last year, although lagging behind inflation.

Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved a rare increase in the interest rate by half a percentage point– the largest since 2000 – when officials stepped up a campaign to slow inflation, which is at a maximum of 40 yearsand cool the economy.

“It is possible that faster wage growth will become more entrenched, and firms are increasingly seeking to retain the workforce they already have, and this is clearly costing them more,” said Richard Moody, the company’s chief economist.

Financial regions Corp.

Mr Moody said employers also face higher costs for additional benefits for hiring court staff.

A recent survey of 1,500 employees by Employ Inc., a talent hiring and acquisition company, found that 67% want more compensation and only 37% believe their employer pays them fairly.

“Money is the king of American workers today,” said Pete Lamson, CEO of Employ Inc. “But it will be a problem if businesses struggle to continue to increase labor costs by raising wages, and if they fail to pass those costs on to their customer base.”

The Labor Department said in a separate report Thursday that unit labor costs in the non-agricultural business sector rose 11.6% year on year in the first quarter, indicating inflationary pressures.

The increase in unit costs – how much a company pays its employees for the production of a unit of output – reflected an increase in hourly wages by 3.2% and a decrease in productivity by 7.5%. Expenditure per unit of labor grew by 7.2% in the last four quarters, the largest increase since 1982.

Write Brian Mena bryan.mena@wsj.com

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