April 3 (Bloomberg) — The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast last week after reaching a six-month low, a sign that progress in the labor market remains fitful.

Jobless claims increased 16,000 in the period ended March 29 to a five-week high of 326,000, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. A revised 310,000 applications were filed in the previous week, the fewest since Sept. 7. The median forecast of 52 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 319,000 claims.

A slowdown in layoffs from earlier this year may set the stage for additional hiring as demand rebounds from a weather- induced soft patch. Figures tomorrow are projected to show companies took on more workers in March than at any time in the last four months.

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