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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose by the most in a month, signaling growing weakness in the job market.
Applications rose by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the second increase in three weeks and the 11th straight week that applications have been above 400,000.
The four-week average for unemployment benefit applications, a less volatile measure, was unchanged at 426,250 last week.
Applications dipped below 400,000 in February and stayed under that threshold for seven of the following nine weeks. Applications fell as low as 375,000, a level that signals sustainable job growth. But applications surged in April to an eight-month high of 478,000 and have shown only modest improvement since that time.
Companies pulled back on hiring in the spring in the face of higher gas and food prices. That has cut into consumer spending on other discretionary items, such as furniture and appliances, which help boost economic growth.
Employers added only 54,000 net new jobs in May, much slower than the average gain of 220,000 per month in the previous three months. The unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent from 9 percent in April.
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