By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week, but the level of applications remains too high to signal a pickup in hiring.
The Labor Department says weekly applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. That's down from 392,000 the previous week, which was revised up. The four-week average was mostly unchanged at 386,750.
Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When applications rise above 375,000, it generally means that hiring isn't strong enough to rapidly lower the unemployment rate.
Applications fell steadily over the winter, and monthly job gains soared. But since then applications have edged up and hiring has slowed, raising concerns about the recovery.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)