Economy & Business

U.S. Jobless Claims Fall to 49-Year Low

President Donald Trump speaks at the Granite City Works steel coil warehouse in Granite City, Ill., July 26, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to its lowest level in 49 years last week.

Labor Department data released on Thursday show that seasonally adjusted initial claims filed in the week ending September 1 fell to 203,000, down 10,000 from the previous week. The last time the number of weekly jobless claims was this low was December, 1969, when 202,000 filed initial requests for benefits.

Job openings started outstripping job seekers in March, and the labor market is now considered near full employment. The U.S. economy reached a record 6.7 million job openings in April, hundreds of thousands more than the number of unemployed workers. The number of openings has never been higher than the number of job seekers since the government started keeping statistics on both in 2000. At the same time, wages have mostly stagnated, confusing economists who continue to expect that their growth will pick up.

The economy grew at a 4.2 percent rate in the second quarter of 2018, the fastest in four years. The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates twice this year and is considering doing so again in response to the economy’s robust growth.

Meanwhile, trade disputes with China and Europe have provoked ripples in the market, as companies hedge their bets on whether to anticipate that the economy will continue to be strong.

U.S. manufacturers worry that rising prices of steel and aluminum imports caused by President Trump’s tariffs will harm companies, as other countries respond in kind with their own tariffs.

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