Applications for Jobless Aid Rise But Stay at Healthy Level

WASHINGTON (AP) -

More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but their numbers remained at low levels consistent with a healthy job market.

The number of people seeking jobless aid rose by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 750 to 268,000. The number of people collecting unemployment checks was 2.24 million, down nearly 7 percent from a year earlier.

The numbers reflect a healthy job market. Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. Weekly numbers below 300,000 are historically low and suggest employers are confident enough to hold on to their workers. Employers added 242,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate stayed at an eight-year low of 4.9 percent.

The American economy has proven resilient in the face of economic weakness overseas and volatility in financial markets.

U.S. consumers are spending at a healthy pace. They are spending more at restaurants and on mobile (transfer of) data. Low gasoline prices have also left more money to spend on other items.

Consumers are also confident enough to purchase big-ticket items like homes and cars. Construction firms are hiring. But factories have cut output because exports have been hurt by faltering demand in foreign markets and a strong dollar that makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas.