WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits jumped last week, pushing total applications above 300,000 for the first time in nearly three months.
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The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000, the highest level since the first week of September. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 6,250 to 294,000.
The increase is unlikely to raise concerns about the broader health of the job market. At least some of the rise occurred because of seasonal layoffs in businesses affected by the cold weather, such as construction. The department seeks to control for such seasonal factors but doesn't always do so perfectly.
Applications had been under 300,000 for 10 straight weeks, an unusually low level that indicates companies are laying off few workers.