The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time in a month. But a measure of applications over the past month fell to a three-and-a-half-year low, an indication that hiring could pick up.
The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 15,000 to a
seasonally adjusted 381,000. The four-week average, a less volatile
measure, fell for the fourth straight week to 375,000 - the lowest
level since June 2008.
Applications generally must fall below 375,000 - consistently - to signal that hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment
Unemployment benefit applications are a measure of the pace of
layoffs. Applications have plummeted in the past month, indicating
that job cuts have fallen sharply. Still, many companies have been
slow to boost hiring.