The number of Americans making initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose slightly in the week that ended Sept. 28, suggesting employment is continuing to grow at a moderate rate.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, increased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 219,000. Economists had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits would rise to 215,000.

Claims have now increased for three straight weeks but according to Reuters, the data suggest “the labor market remains strong even as employers are becoming more cautious about hiring workers.”

“Some of the rise in claims could be the result of an ongoing strike by workers at General Motors,” Reuters said, noting that “While striking workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits, the work stoppage has affected production, impacting non-striking employees at suppliers.”

The government’s closely watched employment report on Friday is expected to show another month of moderate job growth in September, with nonfarm payrolls probably rising by 145,000 jobs after rising by 130,000 in August.

Job gains have averaged 158,000 per month this year, still above the roughly 100,000 needed each month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

“There are signs a 15-month trade war between the United States and China, which has weighed on business confidence and pushed manufacturing into recession, is making companies hesitant to hire workers,” Reuters said.

The Institute for Supply Management reported on Tuesday that a measure of manufacturing employment dropped to more than a 3-1/2-year low in September. Another report showed private employers added only 135,000 jobs to their payrolls last month.

The four-week moving average of claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, was unchanged at 212,500 last week.

Thursday’s report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 5,000 to 1.65 million for the week ended Sept. 21. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims declined 5,750 to 1.66 million.

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