MATT OTT - AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans applied for jobless benefits last week as the number of unemployed continues to rise modestly, though the labor market remains one of the strongest parts of the U.S. economy.

Applications for jobless aid for the week ending July 30 rose by 6,000 to 260,000 from the previous week's 254,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

First-time applications generally reflect layoffs. The four-week average for claims, which evens out the weekly ups and downs, also rose from the previous week, to 254,750.

The Labor Department's jobs report for July, due out Friday, is expected to show that employers added 250,000 jobs last month.