WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid rose last week for the first time in five weeks, but remained at a low level that points to a healthy job market.
The Labor Department says applications for unemployment aid increased 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 245,000. The rise comes a week after applications fell to nearly a four-decade low. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, climbed 1,250 to 234,750.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and any reading below 300,000 is low by historical standards. Many employers say it is difficult to find people to fill their open jobs, and so are holding tightly onto their existing staffs.
Steady economic growth is encouraging more hiring. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.
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