According to the U.S. Labor Department, the number of Americans applying for new unemployment benefits declined slightly last week, suggesting that the recent market volatility following the collapse of two regional banks has not significantly impacted the economy. The New York Post reports for the week ending March 18, initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 192,000. Economists had forecast 197,000 claims for the latest week.
Despite a spate of layoffs by major technology companies, claims have remained within a tight range this year, with 1.9 job openings for every unemployed person in January. The U.S. economy created 311,000 jobs in February after adding 504,000 in January. Economists expect the labor market conditions to loosen, particularly following the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.
The Federal Reserve recently raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, acknowledging the potential impact on credit conditions for households and businesses, and thus the labor market and inflation.
The continuing claims increased by 14,000 to 1.694 million during the week ending March 11, indicating that laid-off workers are likely finding new work. The health of the labor market in March will be further revealed by data next week on the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid.