Applications for jobless benefits lowest in nearly 4 months

U.S. applications for unemployment benefits fell to their lowest level in 15 weeks as the job market continues to show resiliency in the face of attempts by the Federal Reserve to cool the economy, according to a news release from the U.S. Labor Department.

The number of Americans applying for jobless aid for the week ending Jan. 7 fell by 1,000 to 205,000, from 206,000 the week before. Last week’s number was revised up by 2,000 to 206,000.

The four-week moving average of claims, which softens some of the week-to-week volatility, fell by 1,750 to 212,500.

Last week the government reported that U.S. employers added a solid 223,000 jobs in December, evidence that the economy remains healthy even as the Fed is rapidly raising interest rates to try to slow economic growth and the pace of hiring. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, matching a 53-year low.

Even with the solid numbers, December’s jobs report suggested that the labor market may be cooling in a way that could aid the Fed’s fight against high inflation. It was the smallest gain in two years, and it extended a hiring slowdown that began last year.