(From Reuters)

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose from a five-month low last week, but remained below a level associated with a strengthening labor market.

Job fair at Colorado hospital

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 for the week ended March 12, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s claims were revised to show 1,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with healthy labor market conditions, for 54 weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

Labor market resilience has helped to ease fears the economy could be heading into a recession, which triggered a recent sharp stock market sell-off and subsequent tightening in financial market conditions. That could keep the Federal Reserve on course to gradually raise interest rates this year.

The U.S. central bank held rates steady on Wednesday and Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference that “the labor market continues to strengthen” and that economic growth appeared to have picked up from the fourth quarter’s “modest” pace.

New projections from Fed policymakers showed they expected two quarter-point rate increases by the end of this year, half the number seen in December.

U.S. stock index futures were trading lower on Thursday and the dollar fell against a basket of currencies. Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose. Read more

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