WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, suggesting hiring remains sluggish.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly unemployment benefit applications rose 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, an increase from an upwardly revised 380,000 the previous week.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the third straight week to 382,000. That's the highest in six weeks.
Weekly applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they drop below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.
Applications fell steadily during the fall and winter but have since leveled off.
At the same time, hiring has slowed, raising concerns about the pace of the recovery. Employers added an average of only 96,000 jobs per month in the past three months. That's down from an average of 252,000 in the previous three months.
Weaker hiring also pushed up the unemployment rate in May to 8.2 percent, its first rise in nearly a year.
Faster job creation is crucial in order to accelerate growth. More jobs mean more income for consumers, which may lead to higher spending. Consumer spending fuels about 70 percent of the economy.
Many economists blame the slowdown in hiring partly on the unusually warm winter. Companies moved up some hiring in January and February that normally would have occurred in spring. As that trend fades, job gains might recover in the coming months.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week that the warm winter might be a reason for the slowdown in hiring. He also suggested that the burst of job gains earlier this year could have represented a "catch-up in hiring" by employers who cut too deeply in the recession.
In that case, stronger economic growth would be needed to boost hiring further, Bernanke said.
For now, the economy appears to be sputtering. It expanded 1.9 percent in the first quarter, down from 3 percent in the October-December quarter. Growth isn't expected to improve much in the current April-June quarter.
Consumers remain cautious. Retail sales fell 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, matching April's decline. It was the first back-to-back drop in two years.
A big reason for the decline was falling prices at the gas pump, which reduced gas station sales. The average price for a gallon of gas was $3.54 Wednesday, according to AAA. That's 40 cents cheaper than the peak in early April.
That drop should free up more cash for consumers to spend in the coming months, which could accelerate spending this summer, economists said.
The economy is still struggling three years after the recession officially ended in June 2009. Wages haven't kept up with inflation. State and local governments have continued to shed jobs.
The United States has regained less than 3.8 million, or 43 percent, of the 8.8 million jobs lost during and immediately after the recession.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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