WASHINGTON (AP) -- More people sought unemployment benefits last week, but the number of applicants remained near historic lows in a positive sign for job growth.
The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 278,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 6,500 to 292,750. That average has plunged 15 percent over the past 12 months.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. The decline indicates that companies are keeping their workers and potentially looking to hire on the expectation that the economy will continue growing.
The Friday employment report is expected to show that employers added 230,000 jobs in January, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet.
The U.S. economy added almost 3 million jobs last year, the most since 1999.