WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment benefits fell last week, the latest sign the employment picture is slowly brightening.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 462,000. That's close to Wall Street analysts' estimates of 460,000 and the second straight drop.
Still, the four-week average of claims, which smooths volatility, rose to 475,500, reflecting a sharp increase in claims last month.
The four-week average has risen by about 25,000 since the beginning of the year, after falling for most of last year. The increase has raised concerns among economists that layoffs haven't slowed as much as hoped.
Meanwhile, the number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by about 40,000 to 4.56 million.