WASHINGTON – More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but the increase wasn't sharp enough to disrupt the job market's positive momentum.
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The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 290,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 6,000 to 285,000, up slightly from what had the lowest average in more than 14 years.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average has plunged 17.2 percent in the past year, a sign that businesses feel more confident about their prospects, are holding onto workers and potentially looking to amplify hiring.
Declining layoffs have been matched by a substantial increase in hiring. Employers added 214,000 jobs last month as the unemployment rate slid to 5.8 percent from 5.9 percent, the Labor Department said last week.