The number of Americans filing new claims for
unemployment benefits ticked up last week but still left claims at
a level suggesting employers are having trouble finding workers.
The Labor Department reported today that 280,000 Americans filed
new claims for jobless benefits for the week ending March 4, up by
5,000 from the previous week. That was the highest level since Feb.
12, when claims were at 285,000.
Last week's number was right on target with many analysts'
The more stable four-week moving average of claims, which
smoothes out week-to-week volatility, however, fell last week to
277,250 the lowest level since Dec. 15, 1973, when claims were at
The moving average of claims has been below 300,000 since late
Economists consider jobless claims below 300,000 an indication
of an extremely tight labor market. That means it's difficult for
employers to find qualified workers to fill job openings.
While that's good for workers, economists worry that employers
will recruit workers with big increases in wages and benefits,
increased costs that employers could pass along to consumers in the
form of sharply higher prices, thus triggering inflation.
Last week's claims numbers, some economists said, also suggest
that companies' profits are sufficient enough to avoid major
The Federal Reserve has boosted interest rates four times since
last June by a full percentage point to slow the red-hot economy
and keep inflation under control.
Given strong continuing growth and the tight labor markets, most
economists believe the Fed will raise rates again on March 21.
The booming U.S. economy is contributing to labor shortages and
putting pressure on some companies to boost wages, the Fed said
Wednesday in its most recent survey of business conditions across
the country. Still, product prices, for the most part, remained
Today's report said that for the week ending Feb. 26, 14 states
and territories reported increases in jobless claims, while 39
reported decreases. The state data lag a week behind the national
The state with the biggest increase was Massachusetts, up 4,113.
Officials blamed the increase on layoffs in the service industry.
Other states with increases were: Rhode Island, up 1,391;
Kentucky, up 824; Texas, up 466; and Indiana, up 268.
The state with the biggest decrease was California, down 5,588.
Officials said that reflected a shorter workweek because of the
Presidents' Day holiday.
Other states with decreases were: North Carolina, down 2,422;
Illinois, down 2,354; Michigan, down 2,266; and Missouri, down