By Alice Seeley

Last week jobless claims in the U.S. rose to a four-month high of 218,000 last week according to a news release from the Department of Labor.

Most claims came from just a few states, such as Kentucky and California. There were 6,728 jobless claims in Kentucky last week, while California reported an increase of 3,315. The other states with the most filings are Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois.

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits is still extremely low, with applications for unemployment benefits climbing by 21,000 from 197,000. Applications for unemployment benefits fell to a 54-year low of 166,000 as of March 2022 after reaching an all-time high of 6.137 million in early April 2020. The Wall Street Journal polled several economists who predict initial jobless claims to total 200,000 in the seven days ended May 14.

Not all economists are concerned about the rising claims since they view it as the start of the normalizing process for the labor market after the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The tight labor market has likely caused employers to focus on employee retention, resulting in much lower-than-normal initial claims. The increase we are seeing now could just be a first step towards normalizing labor markets,” said Isfar Munir, an economist at Citigroup in New York.

Another reason some economists are not worried is that, as of March 2022, there were still a record 11.5 million job openings. In the same month, an all-time high of 4.5 million people quit their jobs, which means jobs are available.

However, the upset in supply and demand of the labor market caused an increase in salaries, helping the overall inflation in the economy. The Federal Reserve has already raised its policy interest rate by 75 basis points since March, and the U.S. central bank is expected to hike the overnight rate by half a percentage point at each of its next meetings in June and July.