Applications for jobless aid rise but remain at low level

Applicants fill out forms during a job fair at the Southeast LA-Crenshaw Work Source Center in Los Angeles

The Federal Reserve survey Wednesday said employers are having difficulty filling vacancies, even for low-skill work, and some are increasing wages and benefits.

Initial jobless claims in the US for the week ended 15 April increased by 10,000 to 244,000, consistent with consensus expectations of claims rising modestly to 240,000. The increase followed three straight weeks of declines. The unemployment rate, however, dropped to 4.5%, the lowest level since May 2007. "As labor market conditions tighten, the pool of available unemployed skilled workers continues to dry up", said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The Jobless claims have been below 300,000 for 111 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970.

The figures confirmed the long-running downward trend in workers seeking unemployment insurance, which has persisted at record low levels amid an increasingly tight labor market.

So-called continuing jobless claims fell by 49,000 to 1.98 million, marking just the second time they've fallen below 2 million during the current eight-year-old economic expansion.

The less volatile four-week average fell to 243,000, down 4,250 from the week before. An analyst forecast had called for an increase of 8,000 new claims. April's slowdown was driven by a pullback in the new orders and shipments measures. The current employment index rose 2.4 points to its highest level since May 2011. Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell.

The rise in applications likely is linked to volatility around this time of the year due to the different timings of spring and Easter holidays, which often throws off the model the government uses to smooth the data of seasonal fluctuations. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 98,000 jobs in March, the fewest since May 2016.

The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.4% from 1.5% in the latest week. Economists were expecting claims to come in at 240,000.

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