Slightly fewer Americans apply for jobless aid last week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Applications for jobless benefits fell slightly last week with the U.S. job market remaining resilient in the face of rising interest rates and persistent inflation.

Unemployment claims for the week ending Oct. 29 fell by 1,000 to 217,000 from 218,000 the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week moving average ticked down by 500 to 218,750.

Considered a proxy for layoffs, applications for jobless claims have remained historically low this year, even as the Federal Reserve has cranked up its benchmark borrowing rate six times in its effort to cool the economy and tame inflation.

The Fed on Wednesday raised its short-term lending rate by another 0.75 percentage points, three times its usual margin, for a fourth time this year. Its key rate now stands in a range of 3.75% to 4%, the highest in 15 years.

Those increases have come as consumer prices remain stubbornly high at 6.2% year-over-year in September, the same as the previous month. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices to make the trend clearer, accelerated to 5.1% from August’s 4.9%.

All eyes will now turn to the Labor Department’s October jobs report Friday, the last peek at the state of the economy ahead of the midterm elections. In September, American employers slowed their hiring but still added 263,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell from 3.7% to 3.5%, matching a half-century low. Fed officials have signaled that the unemployment rate needs to be at least 4% to slow inflation.

Earlier this week, Labor reported that U.S. employers posted a surprising 10.7 million job vacancies in September, up from 10.3 million in August.

The total number of Americans collecting unemployment aid rose by 47,000 to 1.49 million for the week ending Oct. 22, the highest in seven months, but still not a troubling level.

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