Small rise in jobless claims shows layoffs stay muted

WASHINGTON – More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but jobless claims remained at levels consistent with a healthy labor market.

The Labor Department says claims rose by 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 260,000. Applications have come in below 300,000 for 80 straight weeks, longest streak since 1970. The less volatile four-week average slipped last week by 500 to 260,750.

Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for measuring layoffs. The low level of claims suggests that most Americans enjoy job security.

The unemployment rate is at a healthy 4.9 percent. Employers have added more than 200,000 jobs a month over the past year -- though hiring slowed to 151,000 in August.

The job market has been solid even though the American economy has sputtered since late last year.