The number of Americans applying for jobless benefits inches up, but layoffs remain low

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits ticked up last week, but layoffs remain historically low in the face of lingering inflation and high interest rates
A hiring sign is displayed at a retail store in Vernon Hills, Ill., Tuesday, May 28, 2024. On Thursday, May 30, 2024, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A hiring sign is displayed at a retail store in Vernon Hills, Ill., Tuesday, May 28, 2024. On Thursday, May 30, 2024, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits ticked up last week, but layoffs remain historically low in the face of lingering inflation and high interest rates.

Jobless claims for the week ending May 25 rose by 3,000 to 219,000, up from 216,000 the week before, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The four-week average of claims, which quiets some of the week-to-week noise, also rose modestly to 222,500. That's an increase of 2,500 from the previous week.

Weekly unemployment claims are broadly interpreted as a proxy for the number of U.S. layoffs in a given week and a sign of where the job market is headed. They have remained at historically low levels since millions of jobs were lost when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in the spring of 2020.

In total, 1.79 million Americans were collecting jobless benefits during the week that ended May 18. That’s an increase of 4,000 from the previous week.