WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. unemployment benefit applications rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average increased 6,000 to 351,750.
The weekly applications data can be volatile in early July because some automakers briefly shut down their factories to prepare for new models and many schools close. Those factors can create a temporary spike in layoffs.
The broader trend has been favorable. Applications have declined steadily this year, evidence that companies are laying off fewer workers. That's coincided with acceleration in job gains. In the past six months, employers have added an average of 202,000 jobs a month. That's up from an average of 180,000 in the previous six months.