WASHINGTON - More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but claims for jobless aid remain near pre-recession levels.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 317,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased to 315,250. These figures are close to the jobless claims levels before the outbreak of the Great Recession in December 2007.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the claims data show that employers are dismissing fewer workers. When businesses are confident enough to hold onto staff, they may also step up hiring. That is a positive sign for economic growth, as more jobs usually help lift consumer spending.
Last Friday, the Labor Department said employers added 217,000 jobs in May as the unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent.