Jobless claims stagnate

@CNNMoney May 17, 2012: 9:08 AM ET
Job seekers fill out applications at a job fair in Queens, New York.

Job seekers fill out applications at a job fair in Queens, New York.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits was flat last week, marking yet another sign of lackluster hiring in the spring.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 370,000 people filed new jobless claims in the week ended May 12. That was the same as the week before, after the government revised last week's figure up by 3,000.

It was also slightly weaker than expected. Economists surveyed by had forecast 365,000 people would file new claims.

Initial claims are a volatile number, but because they're closely correlated with layoffs, economists consider them to be a key gauge of the job market.

Seasonal factors seemed to push the number higher in late April, but since then, the figure has fallen only gradually.

There were also 18,000 more people receiving continuing unemployment benefits, as that reading for the week ended May 5 -- the most recent week available -- rose to 3.3 million. To top of page

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