Weekly US Jobless Aid Applications Rise by 18K

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WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. unemployment benefit applications rose by 18,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 354,000. Despite the gain, the level remains consistent with moderate job gains.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average increased by 2,500 to 348,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Since January, they have fallen 6 percent. That suggests companies are cutting fewer jobs.

At the same time, hiring has been steady this year. Employers added 175,000 jobs in May, nearly matching the average monthly gain for the past year.

Companies have continued to add jobs this year, despite an increase in taxes on Jan. 1 and steep federal spending cuts that began in March. The economy has benefited from solid consumer spending and a rebound in housing.