First-time claims for U.S. unemployment compensation remained near a five-decade- low level last week, with employers retaining their workers and searching for more as the United States continues its rapid economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor Department said Thursday that 207,000 jobless workers made first-time claims for unemployment compensation, up 7,000 from the revised figure of the week before. The weekly total of new claims has hovered around 200,000, for a month now.

Even with the increase in claims last week, the figures from the last several weeks were well below the 256,000 total in mid-March 2020, when the pandemic first swept into the United States and employers started laying off workers by the hundreds of thousands.

The diminished number of claims for unemployment benefits, down from a 2021 high of 900,000 in one week last January, shows that many employers are hanging on to their workers, even as millions have quit jobs to move to other companies offering higher pay and more benefits.

Many employers are looking for more workers, despite about 6.9 million workers remaining unemployed in the United States.

At the end of November, there were 10.4 million job openings in the U.S., but the skills of available workers often do not match what employers want, or the job openings are not where the unemployed live. In addition, many of the available jobs are low-wage service positions that the jobless are shunning.

U.S. employers added only 210,000 new jobs in November, a lower-than-expected figure. But overall, the U.S. has added 6.1 million jobs through the first 11 months of the year in a much quicker recovery than many economists had originally forecast a year ago. The unemployment rate dropped in November to 4.2%, a figure some experts had projected would not be reached until mid-2024.

Information on job growth in December and the unemployment rate is set for release on Friday.

The U.S. economic advance is occurring even as President Joe Biden and Washington policy makers, along with consumers, voice concerns about the biggest increase in consumer prices in nearly four decades – 6.8% at an annualized rate in November.

The surging inflation rate has pushed policy makers at the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, to move more quickly to end their asset purchases they had used to boost the country’s economic recovery, by March rather than in mid-2022 as originally planned.

On Wednesday, minutes of the Fed board’s most recent meeting showed that policy makers are eyeing a faster pace for raising the benchmark interest rate that they have kept at near zero percent since the pandemic started.

The Federal Reserve has said it could raise the rate, which influences the borrowing costs for loans made to businesses and consumers, by a quarter of a percentage point three times this year to tamp down inflationary pressures.

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