Mortgage rates rise to highest in 15 years and more business news

Mortgage rates. / Getty Images/Bet_Noire

Mortgage rates rise to highest in 15 years

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for the sixth straight week, marking new highs not seen in 15 years, before a crash in the housing market triggered the Great Recession.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate climbed to 6.70% from 6.29% last week. By contrast, the rate stood at 3.01% a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those looking to refinance their homes, jumped to 5.96% from 5.44% last week.

Rapidly rising mortgage rates threaten to sideline even more homebuyers after more than doubling in 2022. Last year, prospective homebuyers were looking at rates well below 3%.

Lee appoints new labor commissioner

Deniece Thomas, previously deputy commissioner in the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, has been elevated to head the state's labor agency after former Commissioner Jeff McCord announced he is leaving the department to head Northeast State Community College.

"Deniece is a dedicated public servant who has worked tirelessly to ensure Tennesseans, businesses and our economy thrive through meaningful work opportunities," Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday in an announcement of his newest cabinet member. "I appreciate her thoughtful leadership and have full confidence she will continue to serve Tennessee with integrity."

Thomas has helped lead Workforce Services, Adult Education and WIRED divisions. Thomas has served the department since 2007.

Thomas earned her master's degree at Lipscomb University and bachelor's degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

New jobless claims drop to 5-month low

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits dropped last week, a sign that few companies are cutting jobs despite high inflation and a weak economy.

Applications for unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 24 fell by 16,000 to 193,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That is the lowest level of unemployment claims since April. Last week's number was revised down by 4,000 to 209,000.

Jobless aid applications generally reflect layoffs. The current figures are very low historically and suggest Americans are benefiting from an unusually high level of job security. A year ago this week, 376,000 people applied for benefits.

The economy shrank in the first half of the year, the government said in a separate report Thursday on gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy's output.

Yet employers, who have struggled to rehire after laying off 22 million workers at the height of the pandemic, are still looking to fill millions of open jobs. There are currently roughly two open positions for every unemployed worker, near a record high.

With companies desperate for workers, they are much more likely to hold onto their current staff.

Employers are also offering higher pay and benefits to attract and keep employees. Those higher salaries are contributing to inflation pressures.

Credit agencies to keep free weekly credit reports

Citing the impact of decades-high inflation on consumers' wallets, the nation's biggest credit reporting agencies -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- agreed to continue to offer free weekly credit reports through the end of next year.

Under federal law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the bureaus. But at the start of the pandemic, the agencies announced that they would offer free reports weekly, eventually committing to do so through the end of 2022.

"Credit reports play an important role in financial health, and providing weekly reports for consumers at no charge is another way that we can support financial education and stability for people across the U.S. at this critical time," the CEOs of the three bureaus said in a joint statement announcing the extension.

Consumer Reports applauded the move, while calling on the agencies to offer free reports permanently.

"There is no good reason why consumers should be charged at all to access their own financial data," said Syed Ejaz, policy analyst for the nonprofit advocacy group, which noted that the bureaus profit by selling access to consumer data to lenders and other firms. "Consumers should be able to check their credit reports at no charge whenever they want so they can easily check for credit-damaging errors."

— Compiled by Dave Flessner