WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped 20,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, though it remained at a level consistent with modest hiring.
The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 8,000 to 360,750, the highest in six weeks. A department spokesman says heavy snowstorms in the Northeast didn't affect the total.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have trended downward recently. The four-week average has declined 7.5 percent since mid-November and fell to a five-year low three weeks ago.
Still, the increase puts applications back in the 360,000-to-390,000 range, where they have fluctuated since early last year. Employers have added an average of 181,000 jobs a month since then.
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