The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in late May rose to a five-week high, but the rate of layoffs in the U.S. economy remained near a record low. Initial jobless claims climbed by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000 in the week stretched from May 17 to May 23, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to fall to 270,000 from a slightly revised 275,000 in the prior week. The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, increased by 5,000 to 271,500. A week earlier the monthly average had dropped to a 15-year low. 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 - edged up by 11,000 to 2.2 million in the week ended May 16. Earlier in the month, continuing claims also slipped to a 15-year low.
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