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Number of newly laid-off workers continues to climb

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By Chritopher S. Rugaber

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of newly laid-off workers seeking jobless benefits rose last week, as the economy recovers at a slow and uneven pace.

Layoffs have slowed and the economy began to grow in last year's third quarter, but companies are reluctant to hire new workers. The unemployment rate is 10 percent and many economists expect it to increase in the coming months.

The Labor Department said Thursday that initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 482,000. Wall Street economists expected a small drop, according to Thomson Reuters.

The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, rose for the first time since August, to 448,250.

The weekly claims figure is volatile and it can take time for trends to emerge. A Labor Department analyst said that much of the increase last week was due to administrative backlogs leftover from the winter holidays in the state agencies that process the claims.

Claims have dropped steadily since last fall, as companies cut fewer jobs. That has caused some economists to hope that hiring may increase soon. Initial claims have dropped by 50,000, or almost 10 percent, since late October.


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