Applications for US unemployment benefits rise slightly to 271,000, yet still at low level

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid rose slightly last week, but remained at a historically low level that signals an improving job market.

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The Labor Department says applications rose 3,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 271,000. That's not far from the 15-year low reached in April of 262,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined to 273,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the very low levels suggest that businesses are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers. The data also show that employers refrained from layoffs even as the economy contracted in the first three months of the year, a sign they saw the slowdown as temporary.

Nearly 2.25 million people received benefits, up 22,000 from the previous week.