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US jobless claims remain at historically low 209,000, a sign of continuing labor market strength

A hiring sign is displayed at a grocery store in Arlington Heights, Ill., Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. On Thursday, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week, remaining at historically low levels in another sign that the U.S. job market remains strong in the face of higher interest rates.

Unemployment claims stayed at 209,000 for the week ending Oct. 7, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week moving average of claims, which strips out week-to-week volatility, fell by 3,000 to 206,250.

The numbers, a proxy for layoffs, continue to show that American workers enjoy extraordinary job security.

When the Federal Reserve began raising its benchmark interest rate last year to rein in surging consumer prices, many economists expected the United States to sink into recession.

But the economy and the job market have remained sturdy even as higher rates have brought inflation down steadily from the four-decade highs reached in 2022. The combination of easing inflationary pressures and healthy hiring is raising hopes that the Fed can stick a so-called soft landing — beating inflation without triggering an economic downturn.

“Overall, layoffs remain low and demand for workers remains strong,'' said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. ”Even as the Fed has taken aggressive action to soften labor market conditions, businesses are not shedding workers at a rapid pace.''

Overall, 1.7 million people were collecting unemployment checks the week that ended Sept. 30, up by 30,000 from the week before.

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