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Fewer Americans seek unemployment aid

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 5:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013 11:19 p.m. CDT
(Alan Diaz)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug., 14, 2013, file photo, job seekers Emilio Ferrer, Brian Ferrer, center, and Jonathan, right, of Hollywood, Fla., talk to a FirstService representative at a job fair in Miami Lakes, Fla. The Labor Department reports on the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits for the last week of October on Thurday, Oct. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)
(J Pat Carter)
In this Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, photo, Shanieka Walford holds her sleeping daughter, Azanah Blount, and stands next to her son, Aminah Blount, as she faxes job applications from the WorkForce One office in Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
(J Pat Carter)
In this Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, photo, WorkForce One staffer Rose Capote-Marcus works with a client, Pen Osuji as he works on job applications at an unemployment office in the Hollywood, Fla. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000, a sign that employers are laying off very few workers.

The Labor Department said Thursday the four-week average rose 8,000 to 356,250, the highest since April.

The 16-day partial government shutdown and backlogs in California due to computer upgrades inflated the average.

Still, a government spokesman said those unusual factors did not affect last week’s first-time applications, which appeared to be free of distortions for the first time in two months.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen for three straight weeks and are just above the pre-recession levels reached in August.

Fewer applications are typically followed by more job gains. But hiring has slowed in recent months, rather than accelerated.

The economy added an average 143,000 jobs a month from July through September. That’s down from an average of 182,000 in April through June, and 207,000 during the first three months of the year.

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