Claims for US jobless benefits bounce up 53,000 to 253,000

The number of Americans applying for unemployment checks hit the highest mark since September 2017, but they’re still low enough that most workers continue to enjoy job security.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for jobless aid rose by 53,000 last week to 253,000 from a 49-year low 200,000 the week before. The four-week average, which is less volatile, rose by 5,000 to 220,250.

The number of federal workers seeking unemployment benefits fell 42 percent, to 14,739. A 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government ended last week.

Claims are a proxy for layoffs. Unemployment has dropped to 3.9 percent. Employers last month went on a hiring spree and added 312,000 jobs. The January jobs report, out Friday, is expected to show they began 2019 by hiring 165,000.