WASHINGTON – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits increased just 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 352,000. The slight gain kept applications at a level consistent with solid hiring and suggests March’s sluggish hiring may be temporary.
The Labor Department report released Thursday also noted that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose only 2,750 to 361,250. Because the four-week average changes less than the weekly number, many economists say it better captures the pace of layoffs.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, but then plummeted the next week. The sharp fluctuations reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.
“It appears that the modest growth of the economy is continuing to support modest improvement in labor market conditions,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.
Job growth slowed sharply in March. Employers added only 88,000 jobs last month, much lower than the average monthly gain of 220,000 from November through February.
The drop in applications over the past two weeks has led many economists to predict that the job market rebounded this month. Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said last week’s level of applications is consistent with his forecast for 190,000 jobs created in April.
Honda recalls minivans, SUVs
DETROIT – Honda is recalling nearly 205,000 minivans and SUVs in the U.S. and Canada to fix a problem with the automatic shifters.
The recall includes the Honda CR-V small SUV and Odyssey minivan from the 2012 and 2013 model years. Also covered is the 2013 Acura RDX SUV.
Honda says the device that stops drivers from shifting out of park without a foot on the brake may not work properly. The problem occurs in below-freezing temperatures.
The company says no complaints, crashes or injuries have been reported due to the problem. It was discovered during an internal investigation.
Honda will notify owners in mid-May and will make repairs free of charge.
Mortgage rates near record low
WASHINGTON – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell closer this week to their historic lows, making homeownership more affordable and refinancing more attractive.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan dipped to 3.41 percent from 3.43 percent last week. That’s not far from the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, which was the lowest on records dating to 1971.
Twitter launches music app
LOS ANGELES – Twitter has launched a service that lets people find music they like and tweet songs from iTunes, Spotify and Rdio.
Twitter made the app available for download from Apple’s online store and also launched a Web version on Thursday. Twitter said the service will eventually be available on Android devices as well.
The service uses information from Twitter chatter to detect popular tracks as well as new artists. Users who follow musicians can see other artists those musicians follow and can listen to 30-second clips of songs by them.
Tapping the play button on an image of an artist plays a clip from one song picked to represent them. Users can tap another button that opens iTunes where they can buy the track. Or they can play full songs by signing up for a $10-a-month subscription from Spotify or Rdio.