US claims for unemployment benefits rise after two-week drop

WASHINGTON (AFP) - New claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the United States rose last week after two straight weeks of declines, the Labour Department said Thursday.

Initial jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, totalled 354,000 in the week ended June 15, an increase of 18,000 from the prior week's revised number. The rise in claims last week was expected but well above analysts' average estimate of 340,000. The four-week moving average also rose, by 2,500 to 348,250.

Still, the job market has been slowly improving in recent months with steady but modest job growth. Last month, the economy added 175,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate edged up to 7.6 per cent.