Unemployment benefits applications rise, sluggish wage growth

For the first time in months the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has increased.

Last week the total number of applications rose by 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000, according to the Labor Department. The four-week average rose 6,250 to 294,000.

That is the highest level since the first week of September.

The increase is partly due to seasonal layoffs among businesses that are affected by cold weather, including construction. Therefore it is not going to raise much concern about the long-term health of the US job market.

Prior to this reading unemployment benefits applications had been below 300,000 for 10 consecutive weeks, indicating that fewer companies are letting go of their employees.

Despite applications increasing, the overall number is still quite low and the US job market is looking robust.

Employers added an average of 229,000 jobs a month this year, which would make 2014 the strongest year in terms of hiring since 1999.

Last year the average number of jobs added per month was 194,000.

In addition, unemployment has dropped down to a six-year low of 5.8 percent. In 2013 unemployment was at 7.2 percent.

There are still less people without jobs than before the recession though. Approximately 9 million Americans are unemployed at the moment, up from 7.6 million prior to the economic meltdown.

Only a quarter of jobless Americans are receiving unemployment aid, suggesting that there is increasing confidence that they will find jobs quickly.

Economists estimate that the percent of workers who have been laid off applying for benefits is lower than it was just after the end of the recession.

In the week ending Nov. 15 the number of people receiving benefits fell to 2.3 million, the lowest level since December 2000.

However, wages is one element of the American job market that has people concerned. In October the average hourly pay only rose by 3 cents to $24.57, which is just 2 percent above the average wage a year ago and only slightly higher than the US inflation rate of 1.7 percent.