— The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits was higher than anticipated last week, although the figure declined compared to the prior period.

in the U.S. fell to 222,000 in week ended on May 11, down from an upwardly revised total of 232,000 in the previous week. Economists had called for a reading of 219,000.

The four-week moving average, which attempts to account for volatility in the weekly gauge, was 217,750, an increase of 2,500. 

The numbers come as officials at the Federal Reserve attempt to assess the health of the U.S. jobs market. Signs of softening in labor demand could relieve some upward pressure on wages and, by extension, inflation, potentially bolstering the case for the Fed to cut interest rates down from more than two-decade highs.

Data earlier this month showed that the U.S. economy added the fewest number of jobs in six months in April, while the pace of annual wage growth dropped below 4% for the first time in almost three years. A separate release on Wednesday found that consumer prices increased by 3.4% last month, slowing compared to March and in line with expectations.


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