Labor Data

Initial filings for unemployment claims fell last week to their lowest level in five months, a sign that the labor market is strengthening even as the Federal Reserve is trying to slow things down.

Jobless claims for the week ended Sept. 24 totaled 193,000, a decrease of 16,000 from the previous week’s downwardly revised total and below the 215,000 Dow Jones estimate, according to a Labor Department report Thursday.

The drop in claims was the lowest level since April 23 and the first time claims fell below 200,000 since early May.

Continuing claims, which run a week behind, fell 29,000 to 1.347 million.

The strong labor numbers come amid Fed efforts to cool the economy and bring down inflation, which is running near its highest levels since the early 1980s. Central bank officials specifically have pointed to the tight labor market and its upward pressure on salaries as a target of the policy tightening.

Despite the efforts, there was more bad news Thursday for the Fed on the inflation front.

The personal consumption expenditures price index, a favorite inflation gauge for the Fed, showed a 7.3% year-over-year price gain in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported in its final GDP estimate for the period. That was above the 7.1% reading in the prior two Q2 estimates and just off the 7.5% gain in the first quarter.

Excluding food and energy, core PCE inflation was 4.7%, 0.3 percentage point higher than the previous two estimates but below the 5.6% jump in Q1.

The Fed has raised interest rates five times in 2022 for a total of 3 percentage points, and officials have stressed the importance of continuing to hike until inflation comes down closer to the central bank’s 2% target.