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Weekly US jobless benefit claims decline to 339,000

WASHINGTON--The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dipped 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, evidence that layoffs are low and hiring likely will remain steady.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average rose 8,500 to 357,250. The average was driven up in recent weeks by spikes that reflected seasonal volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The government struggles to account for seasonal hiring by retailers and other businesses and for temporary layoffs of school employees during the holidays.

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