The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 29,000 to 219,000, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.
That compares to a revised 190,000 in the previous week. The four-week moving average, meanwhile, was 206,500, an increase of 250 from the prior period.
Although the number rose by more than 10%, claims numbers do tend to vary week to week and it may have been affected by Hurricane Ian.
The report comes one day before the government issues the monthly jobs numbers for September, with expectations that the figure will come in around 200,000 to 250,000 jobs added. On Wednesday, private payroll firm ADP said its monthly survey of hiring showed 208,000 jobs had been created in September.
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All of the numbers are consistent with a labor market that is still very strong, although there are some signs that companies are behaving a little more cautiously than they were a year ago.
“The job market is going from very tight to tight,” says Becky Frankiewicz, ManpowerGroup chief commercial officer and North America president. “We are starting to see a softening of demand but it’s a really gentle dip.”
The Federal Reserve is looking for the job market to cool off, after Chairman Jerome Powell said last month it was “out of balance” and one of the main reasons the central bank is committed to raising interest rates to thwart inflation.
But there are signs that employers are no longer offering outsize salaries and additional benefits to lure workers as they were a year ago when companies widely reported they were unable to find workers to fill positions. Earlier this week, the government reported the number of job openings had fallen by about 1 million to 10.1 million. But that is still a very high number and despite a few instances of layoffs at major companies like Ford, there is not a widespread effort to shed employees.
“Firms seem to struggle to operate at capacity as they have insufficient staffing and have trouble finding qualified workers, especially in health care,” LPL Financial Chief Economist Jeffrey Roach said on Wednesday. “Demand for labor is still fairly robust, increasing the odds that Friday’s employment report will be above average.”