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Applications for US jobless aid edges up to 302K; people collecting benefits at 7-year low

In this June 23, 2014 photo, recruiter Christina O, left, with New Western Acquisitions, meets with employment seekers during a job fair in Philadelphia. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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In this June 23, 2014 photo, recruiter Christina O, left, with New Western Acquisitions, meets with employment seekers during a job fair in Philadelphia. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON - Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but the total number of people receiving jobless aid remains at its lowest level in more than seven years.

The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,000 to a still-low 299,750. A steady decline over the summer in applications means that 2.46 million people collected benefits last week, the lowest total since June 2007, a few months before the Great Recession began.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers keep their workers, it suggests that they are more confident about economic growth and possibly ready to increase hiring.

The government releases the August jobs report Friday. Economists forecast that employers added 220,000 jobs last month.

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