WASHINGTON – Applications for U.S. jobless benefits rose slightly last week, the government reported Thursday, but the latest figures suggest little change in the nation’s underperforming labor market.

Initial claims increased by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week that ended Aug. 18, the Labor Department reported. That’s the highest level in five weeks.

The level of claims is a rough gauge of whether layoffs are rising or falling.

Applications for unemployment benefits have hovered around 370,000 for the past month, a level that indicates a modest increase in hiring at best.