WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits increased just 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 352,000. The slight gain kept applications at a level consistent with solid hiring and suggests March’s sluggish hiring may be temporary.
The Labor Department report released Thursday also noted that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose only 2,750 to 361,250.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, but then plummeted the following week. The sharp fluctuations reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.
“It appears that the modest growth of the economy is continuing to support modest improvement in labor market conditions,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
More than 5.1 million people received benefits in the week ended March 30, the latest data available. That was about 125,000 fewer than the previous week.
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