CLAIMS RISE: The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped 20,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, the Labor Department said. Despite the rise, that level is consistent with modest job gains.
DOWNWARD TREND: Applications have trended lower recently. The four-week average has declined 7.5 percent since mid-November and fell to a five-year low three weeks ago.
GOOD, NOT GREAT: Last week's increase puts applications back in the 360,000-to-390,000 range, where they have remained since early 2012. Since then, employers have added an average of 181,000 jobs a month, slowly pushing down the unemployment rate.