Washington — More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week. But jobless claims remain at low levels, showing that most American workers enjoy job security.
The numbers: The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid rose by 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 251,000. They had fallen the previous week to the lowest level since 1973. The less-volatile four-week average slid by 2,000 to 251,000. The overall number of people collecting unemployment checks was 2.04 million, down more than 6 percent from a year earlier.
The takeaway: Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. They have stayed below 300,000 for 90 straight weeks, longest streak since 1970.
Key drivers: Economists had expected the claims numbers to bounce back after falling the previous week to the lowest level since 1973. That drop might have been exaggerated by problems adjusting the numbers to account for the Veterans Day holiday.
Claims at such low levels show that employers are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers. The U.S. unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, close to what economists consider full employment.
Workers last month enjoyed the biggest pay raises in seven years, another sign the job market is healthy.
Still, hiring has slowed. This year the economy is generating an average of 181,000 jobs a month, down from 229,000 a month in 2015.
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