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US unemployment benefit applications rise to 360K

WASHINGTON — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose by 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, although the level remains consistent with steady hiring.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week average rose 6,000 to 351,750.

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The data can be volatile in July because some automakers briefly shut down factories to prepare for new models, and many schools close.

Applications have declined steadily in the past year. In the past six months, employers have added an average of 202,000 jobs a month, up from 180,000 in the previous six months.

Employers added 195,000 jobs in June, and revisions showed that an additional 70,000 jobs were added in the previous two months. The US unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, down from 8.2 percent a year earlier.

About 4.5 million people got unemployment benefits in the week ended June 22, the latest data available. That was about 50,000 fewer than in the previous week and 23 percent lower than a year earlier. Some of those who no longer receive benefits have gotten jobs, but many have simply used up all the benefits.

More hiring could help the economy grow faster later this year. The economy expanded at an annual rate of just 1.8 percent in the January-March quarter. Most analysts think it slowed even further in the second quarter, to about 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

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