US Jobless Claims Remain at Historically Low Levels

by Suzanne Halliburton
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Inflation, coupled with the steep price of gas, makes us think the economy isn’t doing very well. But weekly jobless claims suggest otherwise.

On Thursday, first-time jobless claims dropped to 166,000 for the week ending April 2. The Labor Department said the claims dropped by 5,000. Plus, the previous week’s revised total decreased by 31,000 claims.

Jobless Claims at a Glance

  • First-time jobless claims dropped to 166,000 last week, the lowest level since 1968
  • New claims usually track with layoffs meanwhile oil prices are dropping
  • This could mean good news for American consumers dealing with high inflation costs

So the newest numbers for jobless claims match those from two weeks ago. Claims now are at their lowest since 1968. That’s when 162,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits. As the Associated Press pointed out, first-time claim numbers usually track layoffs. So if claim numbers are at low levels, employers aren’t needing to trim employees.

The rolling, four-week average was 170,000 jobless claims. In all, there were 1.72 million Americans receiving benefits from all combined programs. This time a year ago, there were 18.4 million. That still was when the federal government was paying enhanced unemployment benefits.

The Labor Department reported last Friday that U.S. employers added 451,000 jobs for March. This dropped the unemployment rate to 3.6 percent. The numbers allowed the United States to extend a strong streak in hiring. For the l1th straight month, the U.S. added at least 400,000 jobs.

Oil Dropped Below $100 Barrel in Thursday Trading

And there may be other good news for the American consumers. Oil prices, again, dropped below $100 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude, which is the U.S. benchmark, dropped as low as $94.42 a barrel in trading Thursday. It popped back up to $96. Brent Crude, the international benchmark, was hovering at about $100 a barrel.

Oil supplies are going up thanks to the collective actions of governments around the world. The United States is releasing 180 million barrels of oil over the next six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Other countries announced similar intentions. Countries affiliated with the International Energy Agency also are kicking in 60 million barrels. Meanwhile, Japan opened up an extra 15 million barrels of oil.

As we all know, it’s not only oil/gas prices that are increasing. So are food prices. The latest figures show that grocery prices rose by nearly 8 percent in February.

The cost of protein — meat, poultry, fish and eggs — is 13 percent higher than this time last year. Price increases for fresh fruit also is in the double digits. Vegetable prices have increased, but not as much, coming in at 4.3 percent. Costs for packaged cereals and baked goods jumped 7.7 percent.