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Jobless claims take highest jump in six weeks

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WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose 32,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the most since late March. The jump came a week after applications had reached a five-year low.

The less volatile four-week average rose just 1,250 to 339,250, the Labor Department said today. That’s a level consistent with modest job gains.

The underlying story in jobless claims continues to be one of gradual improvement,” said Julia Coronado, an economist at BNP Paribas.

Coronado said the small rise in applications “highlight(s) the need to take volatile weekly readings with a grain of salt.”

Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. The big increase might mean companies are cutting more jobs, possibly because of steep government spending cuts that kicked in March 1.