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WASHINGTON (AP) — More people applied for unemployment benefits last week, but not enough to reverse a downward trend that suggests employers will accelerate hiring in the coming months.
Applications remain slightly above the lowest level in two years and the four-week average of applications, a less-volatile measure, dropped last week for the eighth time in nine weeks.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications rose by 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000 in the week ending Jan. 1. They fell to 391,000 in the previous week, the lowest point since July 2008.
Even with the gains, the number of people applying for benefits was fewer than 425,000 — a threshold that signals modest job growth. And applications are far below their peak during the recession of 651,000, reached in March 2009. Still, economists say applications need to fall consistently to 375,000 or below to substantially bring down the unemployment rate.
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