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WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits jumped last week to the highest level in three months.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose by 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 428,000. The week included the Labor Day holiday.
Applications typically drop during short work weeks. In this case, applications didn't drop as much as the department expected, so the seasonally adjusted value rose. A Labor spokesman said the total wasn't affected by Hurricane Irene.
Still, applications appear to be trending up. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fourth straight week to 419,500.
Applications need to fall below 375,000 to indicate that hiring is increasing enough to lower the unemployment rate. They haven't been below that level since February.
The economy added zero net jobs in August, the worst showing since September 2010. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent for the second straight month.
The job figures were weak because companies hired fewer workers and not because they stepped up layoffs, economists said. Business and consumer confidence fell last month after a series of events renewed recession fears.
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