WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits jumped last week, but remained at a low level that suggests hiring should remain steady.
Applications rose 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The increase comes after applications fell to their lowest level since May 2007 two weeks ago.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 1,000 to 322,500. The average reached a seven-year low of 312,000 last month. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the low levels suggest companies are cutting few jobs.
The number of people receiving benefits fell to 2.65 million, the fewest since Dec. 1, 2007, when the recession began.
"Don't be disappointed," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a research note. "The trend is downwards, signaling faster payroll growth."
The recent decline in firings has been accompanied by healthier hiring. Employers are adding more jobs, though unemployment remains at historically high levels.
The economy gained 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 ½ years, and the unemployment rate plunged to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent. But the rate drop occurred because fewer people looked for work. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.
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