WASHINGTON (AP) – Last week, more Americans applied for unemployment benefits after three consecutive weeks of decline.
During the week ended Feb. 12, the number of unemployment claims rose 23,000 to 248,000, the labor ministry said Thursday. Last week, claims were reviewed to 225,000.
The average for four weeks of claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell 10,500 to 243,250.
A total of less than 1.6 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits for the week ended Feb. 5, 26,000 less than the previous week.
Earlier this month, the Labor Ministry reported a surprising surge in hiring in January, and employers added 467,000 jobs. It also revised upwards its estimate of job growth in November and December by a total of 709,000 people. Unemployment rose to a still low 4% from 3.9% as more people started looking for work, but not all immediately found work.
Even though the Omicron option quickly spread earlier this winter, employers were eager to hire. That winter outbreak of infections has briefly contributed to the country’s strong recovery after the 2020 recession caused by viruses, but employers seem confident of long-term growth.
High government spending and the introduction of the vaccine have led to economic growth, with employers adding a record 6.4 million jobs last year. The U.S. economy grew by 5.7% in 2021, growing last year at the fastest annual rate after growing by 7.2% in 1984, also after the recession.
The overheated U.S. economy has spawned inflation that has not been seen for four decades, leading the Federal Reserve to weaken support for the economy. The Fed has signaled that it will begin a series of interest rate hikes in March, repealing pandemic-era policies that fostered hiring and growth, but also persistent inflation.