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Initial claims for unemployment totaled 251,000 for the week ended July 16, up 7,000 from the week before, the Labor Department reported today, July 21. Economists were looking for 240,000 initial claims.

That was the highest weekly number since November 13, 2021

The slight increase in initial claims is the latest sign that the tight labor market is getting less tight.

The initial claims number is a backward-looking indicator and doesn’t yet reflect the recent surge in layoff announcements from companies in the technology and consumer sectors.

It would be fair to conclude, however, that the slight increase in initial claims makes it slightly less likely that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates an outsized 100 basis points at its July 27 meeting.

The CME FedWatch Tool now puts the odds of a 100-basis-point interest rate increase next week at just 27.9%. A week ago the odds of that large an interest rate increase stood at 44.6%. The odds of a 75-basis-point increase now stand at 72.1% on the CME tool.