WASHINGTON (February 21, 2013)--The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped 20,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, although the number remained at a level consistent with modest hiring, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.
The Labor Department said 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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