Figures released Thursday by the Labor Department show initial claims for the week ended April 29 hit 242,000, higher than the 2019 pre-pandemic average of 218,000 claims. That is also above the level recorded the previous week, which was revised slightly lower to 229,000.
Continuing claims, filed by Americans who are consecutively receiving unemployment benefits, fell slightly to 1.8 million for the week ended April 22, a decrease of 38,000 from the previous week.
For months, the labor market remained a strong point in the slowing economy, despite an aggressive interest-rate hike campaign by the Federal Reserve.
But there are signs it is beginning to cool.
Layoffs are on the rise and job openings are declining. Although private-sector hiring rose faster than expected in April, jobless claims are also steadily ticking higher. Economists widely expect unemployment to climb higher as a result of steeper interest rates, which could force consumers and businesses to pull back on spending.