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Economic Report: U.S. initial jobless claims fall for fifth straight week to three-month low

The numbers: The labor market is still hot as layoffs continue to fall in the latest week, despite fears of a slowdown in the U.S. economy.

New jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 213,000 in the week ended Sept. 10, the Labor Department said Thursday. 

This is the fifth week in a row that jobless claims fell. Jobless claims are at the lowest level in 15 weeks.

The number of people applying for jobless benefits is one of the best barometers of whether the economy is getting better, or worse.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total 225,000.

Big picture: The jobless claims figure tells us that the labor market is still pretty strong. 

Layoffs are near record lows. But as the Federal Reserve mulls further rate hikes to address inflation, any major increase in rates could slow down the economy and hence the job market in the coming months.

A sharp rise in rates could then trigger layoffs in the future, as businesses and consumers pull back spending.

Key details: The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, meanwhile, rose by 2,000 to 1.4 million in the week ended Sept. 3. These so-called continuing claims remain near a 50-year low.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

were set to open slightly higher in Thursday trades.

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