WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose just 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 308,000, hovering near six-year lows. The tiny increase suggests companies are still cutting very few jobs.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average for applications fell to 305,000. That's the lowest since May 2007, seven months before the recession began. The average has been distorted by an artificially low number four weeks ago when California and Nevada weren't able to process all their applications due to computer upgrades.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen steadily in the past three months as companies have cut fewer workers. That's typically followed by more hiring. But instead, job gains have slowed in recent months.