WASHINGTON (AP) -- More people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, although jobless claims continue to be close to pre-recession levels.<br />
Weekly applications for unemployment aid climbed 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 311,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The prior week's was revised up slightly to 290,000.<br />
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,000 to 295,750. That continues to be close to averages that predate the beginning of the Great Recession in late 2007.<br />
"Stepping back from the weekly volatility," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, "the trend is still very encouraging and points to continued job growth."
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
A weeklong search for a Missouri couple wanted in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended with one suspect dead and the other wounded Friday, after authorities say they chased the pair across the highway and through a rural neighborhood and exchanged gunfire with them in Florida's Panhandle.
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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept to victory in Iowa's Republican caucuses Monday, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were deadlocked in a tight race.
On the eve of the first contest on the 2016 presidential election calendar, some voters are pushing for bolder, more uncompromising action, with an intensity that has shaken both the Republican and Democratic establishments.