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Jobless claims rise as employers cut holiday help

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By Chritopher S. Rugaber

WASHINGTON (AP) — More people applied for unemployment benefits last week after retailers shed temporary holiday employees.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people seeking benefits jumped by 35,000 to a seasonally adjusted 445,000 for the week ending Jan. 8. It was the highest level since late October.

The increase comes after applications had fallen to their lowest levels in two years over the winter holidays. Applications usually rise in early January once the holiday season ends.

Separately, the Commerce Department said November exports climbed to their highest level in more than two years, helping to narrow the U.S. trade deficit to its lowest point in more than two years. Sales of commercial aircraft, computers, and farm products such as corn and wheat overseas help boost exports.

And more expensive food and energy costs pushed wholesale prices up in December by the increase in nearly a year, the Labor Department said. But excluding those two volatile categories, inflation was tame.

The government attempts to adjust the unemployment benefits figures to account for seasonal factors. But many economists consider the data in early January less reliable because of the seasonal fluctuations.


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