Applications for US unemployment aid rose slightly to end December

Applications for unemployment aid for the week ending Dec. 24 climbed 9,000 to 225,000, according to a Labor Department report. The four-week average of applications, which smooths out some of the week-to-week swings, slipped just 250 to 221,000.

So far, the level of jobless claims remains quite low, evidence that Americans are enjoying a high degree of job security, an Associated Press report notes. The Fed is seeking to slow job growth and the pace of wage increases as part of its efforts to battle inflation. The central bank hiked rates seven times in 2022, which has made it more expensive for consumers to take out mortgage and auto loans and raised borrowing rates for credit cards.

The interest rate increases have pushed mortgage rates above 6%, essentially double what they were before the Fed began tightening credit. Higher mortgage rates have hammered the housing market, with sales of existing homes falling for 10 straight months.

However, there has been only a limited impact on hiring. Employers added 263,000 jobs in November, a healthy gain, and the unemployment rate stayed at a low 3.7%.