updated 5/20/2004 9:07:41 AM ET 2004-05-20T13:07:41

The number of people signing up for jobless benefits rose last week, but the level of filings still pointed to a recovery in the labor market.

Major Market Indices

The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for unemployment insurance climbed by a seasonally adjusted 12,000 to 345,000 for the week ending May 15. Claims below 400,000 suggest the job market is improving.

Even with last week’s increase, the layoff picture looks better than compared with the same time last year, when claims were at 424,000. Claims reached a high last year of 444,000 in the middle of April.

Economists were forecasting claims that were filed last week to fall to about 326,000.

In an encouraging note, the more stable, four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out weekly fluctuations, dropped last week to 333,500. That was the lowest level since Nov. 18, 2000.

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