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Economic Report: U.S. unemployment claims climb 11,000 to 227,000, but still near pandemic low

The numbers: New filings for unemployment benefits rose by 11,000 to 227,000 in early March, but businesses are trying to avoid layoffs as they confront an extremely tight labor market and try to fill a record number of open positions.

Initial jobless claims rose from a revised 216,000 in the prior week,  the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast initial jobless claims to total a seasonally adjusted 216,000 in the seven days ended March 5.

New jobless claims still appear on track to fall below 200,000 again in the near future, however. They briefly fell to a 52-year low of 188,000 at the end of last year.

Big picture: The jobs market is red-hot.

Companies have more than 11 million open positions — two for every unemployed worker — but they are struggling to fill many of them. Most are offering higher pay and benefits to attract new employees.

The strong demand for labor also reflects strong demand for goods and services, suggesting the U.S. economic recovery is still in good shape.

Some headwinds are developing, however. The war in Ukraine and high inflation, abetted by rising oil prices, threatens to undermine growth. So does the prospect of the Federal Reserve increasing interest rates.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

and S&P 500

were set to open lower in Thursday trades. Stocks rose on Wednesday, but they have been under pressure since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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