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Jul 27, 8:52 AM EDT

US weekly requests for jobless aid up 10K, to 244,000

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- More Americans applied for jobless aid last week, though the number of people seeking benefits remains near historic lows pointing to a healthy job market.

THE NUMBERS: Weekly unemployment applications rose by 10,000 to 244,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the largest weekly increase since late May. The less volatile four-week average was unchanged at 244,000. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits has fallen 8.3 percent over the past 12 months to 2 million.

THE TAKEAWAY: The job market appears solid as the U.S. enters its ninth year of recovery from the Great Recession. Employers are holding onto workers with the expectation that business will continue to improve. Jobless claims - a close indication of layoffs - have come in below 300,000 for 125 weeks in a row. That's the longest such stretch since 1970, when the U.S. population was much smaller.

KEY DRIVERS: After a weak start this year, the economy is expected to grow at roughly 2 percent. That would be roughly in line with annual gains during the recovery. Consistent hiring has helped sustain the gradual recovery, although the expansion is starting to show its age as the pace of job gains has slowed this year.

The unemployment rate has fallen to a healthy 4.4 percent. The Labor Department's report for June showed that U.S. employers added a robust 222,000 jobs, the most in four months and a reassuring sign that businesses may be confident enough to keep hiring despite a slow-growing economy.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it is keeping its key interest rate unchanged at a time when inflation remains undesirably low despite the job market continuing to strengthen.

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