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Fewer Americans applied for jobless aid last week

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, adding to evidence that hiring will pick up this year.

The Labor Department says the number of people seeking benefits fell by 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 404,000 for the week ended Jan. 15.

The decline suggested that an unexpected rise in applications a week earlier was the result of seasonal factors. Applications often rise in early January after retailers lay off temporary holiday workers.

Applications remain near the two-year lows reached over the winter holidays. Fewer than 425,000 people applying for benefits is considered a signal of modest job growth. Economists say applications must fall consistently to 375,000 or fewer to substantially reduce the unemployment rate.