US unemployment claims tick up but remain at low level

Paul Wiseman
Associated Press

Washington — More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, but applications remained at a low level that suggests most workers enjoy job security.

The numbers: The Labor Department says weekly jobless claims rose by 14,000 to 257,000, the highest level in almost a month. The less volatile four-week average slipped by 500 to 242,250, lowest since late February.

Overall, 1.99 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits, down more than 7 percent from a year ago.

The takeaway: Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. They have come in below 300,000 for 112 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970. The numbers suggest that most American workers are secure in their jobs.

Key drivers: The U.S. economy is healthy, if not booming. Employers are adding a healthy 175,000 jobs a month so far this year and are confident enough to be holding on to their workers. The U.S. unemployment rate fell last month to 4.5 percent, lowest in nearly a decade

“The behavior of claims suggests there is room for the unemployment rate to decline further,” Raymond Stone, co-founder of Stone & McCarthy Research Associates, wrote in a research report.

Economists believe the economy grew slowly — at an annual pace of 1 percent or lower — from January through March. The Commerce Department releases the first-quarter numbers on Friday. But forecasters expect growth to pick up in the spring. Employers are optimistic about future sales and are posting job openings.