Unemployment aid applications on the rise

The Labor Department says they're up 16,000

WASHINGTON - (AP) -- The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by 16,000 last week, the second straight weekly increase. But the longer-term trend in layoffs remained consistent with an improved job market.

   The Labor Department says applications increased to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 for the week ending March 23. That's up from 341,000 the previous week, which was revised slightly higher. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,250 to 343,000.  That's only slightly higher than the previous week's five-year low of 340,750.

   Economists pay closer attention to the four-week average.

   Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have been declining steadily since November, coinciding with solid job growth.

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