The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits rose last week but remained at historically low levels, suggesting the job market remains strong.
Unemployment claims in the United States rose by 7,000 last week to 207,000. The four-week claims average, which dampens week-over-week gyrations, rose nearly 4,800 to reach just under 205,000. Despite the increases, figures show weekly claims are lower than the typical 220,000 before the pandemic hits the US economy in March 2020.
The highly transferable variant of the omicron does not appear to have triggered any significant layoffs so far.
In total, nearly 1.8 million Americans were on traditional unemployment assistance during the week ending December 25.
“Assuming omicron-related layoffs are limited amid a tight labor market, we would expect initial claims to continue to hover around the (200,000) mark,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, economist chief at Oxford Economics.
Rising mortgage rates in the United States
Average long-term mortgage rates in the United States have risen over the past week to start the new year. They reached their highest level since May 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, while remaining historically low.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the 30-year average benchmark home loan rate rose to 3.22% this week from 3.11% last week. A year ago, the 30-year rate stood at 2.65%.
The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those refinancing their homes, fell to 2.43% from 2.33% last week.
Many economists expect mortgage rates to rise this year after the Federal Reserve announced last month that it would start cutting its monthly bond purchases to contain inflation. But even with the three rate hikes expected in 2022, the Fed’s benchmark rate would remain below 1%.