The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in mid-May rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000, hitting the highest level in a month, government figures show. That's still near a 15-year low, however. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims in the seven days stretching from May 10 to May 16 to rise to 269,000 from an revised 264,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 5,500 to 266,250, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since April 2000. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate thermometer of labor-market trends. Continuing claims - people already collecting unemployment checks - fell by 12,000 to 2.2 million. That's the fewest amount since November 2000.
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