The U.S. Labor Department says the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since February 2015, more sobering news for the labor market after a disappointing April jobs report.
Applications for jobless aid rose by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose by 10,250 to 268,250, highest in nearly three months.
Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. Despite last week’s increase, they remain low. They have come in below 300,000 for 62 straight weeks, longest streak since 1973.
But employers added just 160,000 jobs in April, the weakest gain this year. The labor market had been shrugging off weak economic growth: The economy expanded at a lackluster 0.5 percent annual pace from January through March.