The U.S. labor market appeared to gain momentum in early September as fewer Americans filed for weekly unemployment benefits, but weak inflation pressures may complicate the Federal Reserve’s decision whether to raise interest rates.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Sept. 5, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the 27th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is usually associated with a strengthening labor market.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, ticked up 500 to 275,750 last week.
In another report, the Labor Department said import prices fell 1.8 percent last month as the cost of petroleum and a range of goods dropped, after sliding 0.9 percent in July.
August’s drop in import prices was the largest in seven months and suggested a strong dollar and soft global demand continued to put downward pressure on imported inflation. Import prices now have declined in 12 of the last 14 months.
In the 12 months through August, import prices declined 11.4 percent, the largest drop since September 2009.