Applications for US unemployment benefits inch up, but total collecting aid near 15-year-low

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Slightly more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but the modest increase pulled the total number of people collecting jobless aid to near 15-year lows.

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The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 3,000 to 265,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 4,250 to 279,500, the lowest level since May 2000.

The total number of people receiving benefits was 2.23 million, the lowest figure since November 2000.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the recent lows indicate that employers are holding onto workers despite sluggish economic growth since the start of 2015.

The absence of layoffs has led economists to expect that the government will report Friday that employers hired 225,000 workers in April, according to FactSet.