WASHINGTON — The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by the most in a month, signaling growing weakness in the job market.
Applications rose by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the second increase in three weeks and the 11th straight week that applications have been above 400,000.
The four-week average for unemployment benefit applications, a less volatile measure, was unchanged at 426,250 last week.
Applications dipped below 400,000 in February and stayed under that threshold for seven of the following nine weeks. Applications fell as low as 375,000, a level that signals sustainable job growth. But applications surged in April to an eight-month high of 478,000 and have shown only modest improvement since that time.
Analysts said the June trend in unemployment applications was consistent with modest payroll growth of around 130,000 per month.
The economy needs to generate at least 125,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth. And at least twice that many jobs are needed to bring down the unemployment rate, which rose to 9.1 percent in May.
"We need initial claims to fall back below 400,000 to signal stronger economic growth than the area we seem to be mired in," said analysts John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros at RDQ.