Applications for jobless aid rise, but levels still low

Josh Boak
Associated Press

Washington — More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but applications stayed near historically low levels in a positive sign for the job market.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 285,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased slightly to 284,750.

Applications for jobless aid are a proxy for layoffs. The number of people seeking benefits has stayed below the crucial threshold of 300,000 for the past 11 months, which suggests that employers are holding onto workers and looking to hire on the expectation of continued economic growth. Weekly claims below 300,000 have generally corresponded with strong hiring levels.

Economists expect that the jobs report released Friday will show that the economy added a net 200,000 jobs in January.