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June 27, 2019 1:00 PM, EDT

Jobless Claims Increase to Highest Level in Seven Weeks

Jobs Allison Hess/Bloomberg News

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Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits increased by more than expected to a seven-week high, a possible sign of strains in the labor market that could factor into the Federal Reserve’s debate over whether to cut interest rates next month.

Jobless claims rose by 10,000 to 227,000 in the week ended June 22, according to Labor Department figures released June 27 that exceeded all estimates in Bloomberg’s survey of economists. The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, increased to 221,250, the highest in more than a month.

The uptick in claims may heighten concerns about the strength of the labor market after job gains trailed estimates in May. Even so, the June employment report due next week likely will prove more important as it will provide a detailed picture ahead of Fed officials’ meeting in late July.

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The data may reflect some volatility related to the end of the school year, as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey recorded large increases in unadjusted claims. Also, figures for California were estimated, showing an unadjusted rise of 5,155.

Even with the increase nationally, jobless claims remain near historically low levels as higher wages and low unemployment support consumer spending, which accounts for most of the economy.