WASHINGTON - The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since February, more disappointing news for an economy that is supposed to be gaining momentum.
The Labor Department says a seasonally adjusted 344,000 people applied for jobless aid, up 14,000 from the previous week and the most since late February. Economists had expected a drop. The less-volatile 4-week average rose by 3,000 to 320,000.
Unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs and have fallen to pre-recession levels since peaking at 665,000 in March 2009.
The government reported Wednesday that the economy grew at an annual pace of just 0.1 percent from January through March. Economists blamed bad weather for the slowdown and expect growth to rebound to 3 percent in the second half of 2014.