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Applications for US jobless aid increases up to 304,000

WASHINGTON--The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits last week rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000. Jobless claims continue to be near pre-recession levels despite the slight increase.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 312,000. That average has fallen from 357,500 applications over the past 12 months. It is the lowest four-week average since October 2007, just two months before the Great Recession started.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The current level of claims suggests that employers are holding on to their workers with the expectation of stronger economic growth ahead.

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