New Jobless Claims Jump 7,000, But Still Improving Slowly

Georgia, California and Texas had the biggest increase in claimants last week.

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Data suggest Americans are getting off of unemployment insurance rolls and back to work.

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The number of Americans filing new unemployment insurance claims grew by 7,000 last week, to 343,000, according to new figures from the Labor Department.

The figure is a weekly barometer of the health of the labor market, showing where layoffs are most prevalent. The state with the largest jump in jobless claims was Georgia, which told the Labor Department its increase of more than 7,000 new claimants was due to layoffs in several industries, including manufacturing, administration and support service, and hospitality and food service. California also had a bump of nearly 6,800, and Texas had more than 6,000 more new claims than the week before.

[READ: Sequestration Forces Cuts to Long-Term Unemployment Benefits for Millions]

Meanwhile, Michigan led the way in declines, with nearly 12,000 fewer, thanks to fewer manufacturing layoffs. That put it well ahead of New York, with 4,700 fewer claimants last week.

Though a rise in jobless claims may make it seem as if the nation's job situation is worsening, the figure is also volatile. The four-week moving average for jobless claims, a smoother measure of jobless claims, is still pointing downward, having declined by 1,250 last week. In addition, jobless claims are also around 20,000 less than they were one year ago, representing slow improvement.

Jobless claims are also inching into the territory they occupied before the financial crisis and subsequent recession. Not only is 343,000 a far cry from the high of 670,000 seen in 2009, at the worst of the crisis, it is also slightly higher than the lower-300,000s levels seen in late 2006 and early 2007, before the worst of the crisis.

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