By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More people sought unemployment benefits last week, suggesting that the job market's recovery remains slow.
The increase also likely reflects some seasonal volatility because applications for unemployment aid frequently rise around the Easter holiday. Many school employees are temporarily laid off during spring breaks and can file for benefits.
Weekly unemployment benefit applications jumped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 380,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The previous week's figures were also revised higher. The four-week average, a less volatile gauge, rose to 368,500.
After steadily declining since last fall, applications have leveled off in recent weeks. The four-week average is essentially unchanged over the past two months.
The increase "doesn't ring any alarm bells," said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody's Analytics. "Applications can be choppy."
But the trend bears watching, he said.
"If claims continue to climb, it would be strong evidence that the job market is weakening," Sweet added.
When applications fall below 375,000, it generally suggests that hiring will be strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The figures come after a disappointing employment report last week that showed that employers added only 120,000 jobs in March, half the average pace in the preceding three months. But many economists downplayed the weak March figures, noting that a warmer winter may have led to some earlier hiring in January and February.
The economy has added an average of 212,000 jobs per month in the January-March er growth.
Greater hiring hasn't led to larger paychecks. Wages aren't rising fast enough to keep up with inflation. Rising gas prices are also weighing on consumers' ability to spend money on other goods and services. Europe's debt crisis has flared up again, as Spain and Italy have been forced in recent days to pay higher interest rates on their debts.