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Weekly applications for US unemployment benefits rise slightly to 339,000

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WASHINGTON - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, evidence that layoffs ticked up. Still, the increase wasn't enough to suggest the job market is worsening.

The Labor Department says the four week average of applications, a less volatile measure, increased 3,500 to a seasonally adjusted 336,750.

The average is roughly in line with pre-recession levels and suggests that, despite last week's rise, companies are cutting few jobs. Applications are a proxy for layoffs.

Last week's figure may also have been pushed up by cold weather, which can cause construction firms and other companies to stop work.

A total of 3.52 million Americans received benefits as of Jan. 25 — the latest data available — up from 3.47 million the previous week.

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