WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750.
The weekly applications data can be volatile in July because some automakers briefly shut down their factories to prepare for new models and many schools close. Those factors can create a temporary spike in layoffs.
The broader trend has been favorable. Applications have declined steadily in the past year, as companies have laid off fewer workers and stepped up hiring. In the past six months, employers have added an average of 202,000 jobs a month. That's up from an average of 180,000 in the previous six months.
Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas, said the volatility will likely continue for the rest of the month and "could mask the true underlying trend in jobless claims data."
"We believe that labor market conditions remain on a gradually improving trajectory," she added.
Employers added 195,000 jobs in June, and revisions showed that an additional 70,000 jobs were added in the previous two months. The unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, down from 8.2 percent a year earlier.
Applications fell to their lowest level since the recession began in the April-June quarter, according to calculations by Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. They averaged 346,000 a week in the second quarter. That is the lowest quarterly average since it was 338,000 in the final three months of 2007, when the Great Recession began.