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Applications for US jobless benefits rise to 348K

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, though the broader trend in applications remained stable.

The Labor Department says the four-week average was unchanged at 338,250. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The average is not far above pre-recession levels, a sign companies are laying off few workers.

Applications have been mostly steady in recent weeks, even though hiring faltered in January and February. That suggests employers may be reluctant to add many jobs, but they aren't worried enough about future growth to step up layoffs.

Nearly 3.5 million people received unemployment aid in the week ending Feb. 8, the latest data available. That's about 25,000 fewer than the previous week.

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