(CN) - Applications for unemployment benefits rose by 20,000 last week, to a seasonally-adjusted 243,000, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday.
The new numbers are an increase from the 44-year-low 223,000 in jobless claims the week before, but economists on Thursday said the small increase suggests American employers are holding onto their employees.
Claims for benefits have now been below 300,000 for 105 straight weeks, longest such streak since 1970.
The four-week unemployment benefits claim average, which is less volatile, blipped up by 2,250 to 236,500.
Overall, 2.06 million Americans are collecting unemployment checks, down more than 6 percent from a year ago.
The unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, close to what economists consider full employment.
Combined, the latest figures are seen as strong enough to have the Federal Reserve thinking seriously of a short-term interest rate hike as it prepares to meet next week.
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