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US unemployment aid applications rise to 326,000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits jumped last week, but remained at a low level that suggests hiring should remain steady.

The Labor Department says applications rose 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000. The increase comes after applications fell to their lowest level since May 2007 two weeks ago.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 1,000 to 322,500. The average reached a seven-year low of 312,000 last month. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the low levels suggest companies are cutting few jobs.

The number of people receiving benefits fell to 2.66 million, the fewest since December 1, 2007, when the recession began.

The drop in firings has been accompanied by healthier hiring. Employers are adding more jobs, though unemployment remains at historically high levels.

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