The number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose by 18,000 last week, the Employment and Training Administration says. At 354,000, the number remained at a level consistent with modest job growth.
According to the agency, the four-week moving average, a less volatile indicator, rose 2,500, to 348,250.
The AP reports:
"Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Since January, they have fallen 6 percent. That suggests companies are cutting fewer jobs.
"At the same time, hiring has been steady, despite an increase in taxes on Jan. 1 and steep federal spending cuts that began in March. Solid consumer spending and a rebound in housing have helped the economy weather the fiscal drag.
"Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the increase in applications makes it less likely that hiring will accelerate this month but job growth remains moderate."