WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 354,000, a sign layoffs have increased. Still, the level of applications is consistent with steady hiring.
The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 6,750 to 347,250, the third straight gain. The average had fallen to a five-year low of 338,000 earlier this month.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have been at about 350,000 or below for most of this year. At the same time, hiring has been solid. In the past six months, employers have added an average of 208,000 jobs per month. That's up from an average of only 138,000 in the previous six months.
The unemployment rate has dropped to 7.5 percent, a four-year low.