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Sunday July 31st, 2016 5:27AM

Jobless aid applications rise to 302,000

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but jobless claims remain at pre-recession levels.<br /> <br /> Weekly applications for unemployment aid rose 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The prior week's claims were revised down to 279,000, the lowest since May 2000.<br /> <br /> The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 3,500 to 297,250. That's the lowest average since April 2006, more than a year before the Great Recession began at the end of 2007.<br /> <br /> Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers keep their workers, it suggests potential income gains, active hiring and confidence that the economy is growing.<br /> <br /> Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the fifth straight month of job gains above 200,000. That's the first such stretch since 1999, during the height of the dot-com boom. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008.<br /> <br /> Economists forecast that the July employment report being released Friday will show that 225,000 jobs were added, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet. They forecast that the unemployment rate held at 6.1 percent in July.<br /> <br /> Payroll provider ADP said Wednesday that private employers added 218,000 jobs in July, down from 281,000 in June.<br /> <br /> Steady hiring gains have yet to lift wages by much. Wage growth has slightly outpaced inflation since the recession ended more than five years ago.<br /> <br /> But more people with jobs increases the total number of paychecks, which could boost consumer spending and growth.
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