A woman speaks to a potential employer Thursday during a...

A woman speaks to a potential employer Thursday during a jobs fair in the Harlem Armory. Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits this past week. The state sponsored the June jobs fair as part of what the U.S. Labor Department is calling Jobs Fair Month. (June 7, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting modest job growth after three months of weak hiring.

Applications for weekly benefits dropped by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 377,000. That's down from an upwardly revised 389,000 the previous week.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose by 1,750 to 377,500, highest level in a month.

Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When claims dip below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.

The government last reported that unemployment rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 percent in April. Employers added 69,000 jobs, fewest in a year. Hiring was also weak in March and April.

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