The number of Americans making new claims for jobless benefits edged higher last week, a new sign of the up-and-down nature of the economic recovery in the United States.
The government said Thursday 343,000 workers made their initial claims for unemployment compensation, up 7,000 from the week before. The claims serve as a measure of layoffs in the country, which is steadily, but slowly recovering from its steep economic downturn five years ago.
The U.S. labor market has been adding about 200,000 jobs a month for the last nine months. But its 7.6 percent jobless rate remains high by historical standards.
U.S. President Barack Obama has embarked on a new effort to boost the country's economy, and especially the fortunes of its vast middle class. He is visiting the Atlantic Ocean port of Jacksonville, in the southern state of Florida, on Thursday to push for more construction projects to improve the country's infrastructure.
The U.S. leader laid out his economic plans in a speech in the central part of the country on Wednesday, and said increasing the number of manufacturing jobs is essential.
"Over the past four years, for the first time since the 1990s, the number of American manufacturing jobs has actually gone up, instead of down. That's the good news. But we can do more. So I'm going to push new initiatives to help more manufacturers bring more jobs back here to the United States," he said.
The U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, is weighing whether the American economy has improved enough so it can start to trim its stimulative effort, an $85-billion-a-month purchase of securities it has used to put more money into the economy.