WASHINGTON?The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week but remained at a low level consistent with a healthy U.S. job market.

Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs across the U.S., rose by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000 in the week ended Nov. 26, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 250,000 new claims last week. Claims for the week ended Nov. 19 were left unrevised at 251,000.

Data on unemployment applications can be volatile from week to week, especially around holidays when seasonal adjustments are difficult; Thanksgiving was last Thursday.

Jobless claims have climbed by 35,000 over the past two weeks after fallingby 33,000 over the prior two-week period. The more-stable four-week moving average edged up last week by 500 to 251,500.

Initial claims have remained below 300,000 for 91 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970?when the U.S. population and workforce were far smaller than they are today.

The Labor Department said no special factors affected the latest claims data.

Thursday's report also showed continuing unemployment claims, drawn by workers for longer than a week, rose by 38,000 to 2,081,000 in the week ended Nov. 19. Data on continuing claims are released with a one-week lag.

The U.S. labor market remains broadly healthy. The unemployment rate has hovered at or below 5% for 13 straight months and the labor-force participation rate has inched higher after years of decline. Nonfarm employers added an average of 181,000 jobs a month during the first 10 months of 2016, a solid pace though slower than last year's monthly average of 229,000.

"Taken together, labor market indicators show an economy that is on solid footing and close to our mandate of maximum employment," Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell said Tuesday during a speech in Indianapolis.

The Labor Department on Friday will release its monthly jobs report for November. Economists expect nonfarm payrolls to rise by 180,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 4.9%.

Write to Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 01, 2016 09:05 ET (14:05 GMT)

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