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Jul 2, 8:38 AM EDT

Applications for US jobless benefits rise to still-low 281,000, a sign of healthy job market



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WASHINGTON (AP) -- More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but the level of applications is still low and points to an improving job market.

The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, ticked up 1,000 to 274,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Even with the increase, they remain far below 300,000, a historically low level that indicates companies are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers. That confidence can also cause them to hire more people.

Consumers have stepped up spending on clothing, furniture and cars, spurring faster growth. Home sales have also accelerated and are now running at the highest level in eight years.

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