WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week by 16,000, bringing the seasonally-adjusted total to 326,000. But the increase remains close to pre-recession levels, suggesting hiring stability.
The Labor Department, in releasing the report Thursday, said that the four-week average of applications, considered a less volatile measure, saw a smaller increase of 250 from the previous week's revised average of 319,250.
That unemployment applications, which suggest workers having been laid off, have returned to roughly pre-recession levels, is a sign that employers are letting go of fewer workers and expect solid economic growth in the months ahead.
Other signs of optimism include a report Wednesday from payroll processor ADP that showed businesses added 191,000 jobs last month, the highest since November, fueling hopes for strong gains in the Labor Department's survey. The Labor Department releases its March employment report Friday.
Also positive: the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 6.6% in January from 6.7%, as more of those out of work found jobs. Hiring rose in manufacturing and construction, two industries that are higher-paying industries and key drivers of growth.
Contributing: The Associated Press.