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Applications up for unemployment benefits

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WASHINGTON (KNOE 8 News/AP) - Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but claims for jobless aid continue to hover near seven-year lows.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 310,250. That's the lowest average since June 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the running average suggests employers are letting go of fewer workers. When businesses are confident enough to hold onto staff, they may also step up hiring. That is a positive sign ahead of May's jobs report to be released Friday.

Economists expect that 220,000 jobs were added last month, according to a FactSet survey. But payroll processer ADP said Wednesday that private employers hired just 179,000 workers in May.

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