The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increased last week, but underlying strength in the labor market should continue to support the economy.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 229,000 for the week ended June 1, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 220,000 claims in the latest week.

The labor market has been steadily rebalancing back toward pre-pandemic levels after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by roughly 525 basis points since March 2022 to slow demand in the overall economy.

The so-called continuing claims tracking those who collect benefits beyond the first week increased 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 1.792 million during the week ending May 25, the claims report said.

Data earlier this week showed U.S. job openings in April fell more than expected and the number of available jobs per job-seeker reached its lowest level since June 2021.

Meanwhile, U.S. employers announced the fewest job cuts last month since December and layoff announcements so far in 2024 are running behind last year's pace, according to data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Employers announced 63,816 cuts in May, a 1.5% decrease from the 64,789 cuts announced in April and down 20% from the 80,089 cuts announced a year earlier. Year-to-date layoff announcements are 7.6% lower than in the first five months of 2023.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)