WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits increased just 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 352,000. The level is consistent with solid hiring and suggests the job market should rebound this month after slowing sharply in March.
The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 361,250.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, then fell back the following week. The sharp fluctuations likely reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.
Employers added only 88,000 jobs last much, much lower than the average gain of 220,000 a month from November through February. Many economists expect hiring to rebound to about 150,000 this month.