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Wednesday July 1st, 2015 12:57PM

Jobless rate is lowest in 6 years; unemployment aid applications up slightly

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hiring over the past five months has been the strongest since the late 1990s tech boom as the economy added 288,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.3 percent. Meanwhile, first-time claims for unemployment insurance are up slightly.<br /> <br /> The Labor Department says those gains follow additions of 217,000 jobs in May and 304,000 in April, figures that were both revised upward.<br /> <br /> The economy has added more than 200,000 jobs in each of the past five months, a streak it last matched during the 1999-2000 tech boom. It's a sign that the sluggish half-decade recovery from the Great Recession is finally building momentum.<br /> <br /> Monthly job gains so far this year have averaged 230,833, up from 194,250 in 2013.<br /> <br /> The unemployment rate dipped last month to its lowest level since September 2008.<br /> <br /> FIRST-TIME UI CLAIMS <br /> <br /> The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits edged up slightly last week but remained at a level that indicated a healthy labor market.<br /> <br /> The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications rose by 2,000 to 315,000. The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, was essentially unchanged at 315,000.<br /> <br /> The average has fallen by 9 percent since the beginning of this year. Unemployment benefit applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the declines indicate that companies are cutting fewer jobs
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