More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but levels still at historic lows

WASHINGTON – More people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but the levels remain near historic lows that point toward a healthy job market.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid rose 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 269,000. The less volatile four-week average was 269,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The low number suggests that employers are keeping workers and potentially adding staff in anticipation of continued economic growth. Weekly filings have stayed below the key threshold of 300,000 since late March, which is usually associated with net monthly job gains in excess of 200,000.

The economy is expected to have added roughly 200,000 jobs in the November jobs report being released Friday. Job growth reached its strongest pace of 2015 in October when employers hired 271,000 workers.