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Weekly applications for US unemployment benefits decline slightly to 336,000

In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, photo, job seekers arrive to meet prospective employers during a career fair at a hotel in Dallas. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits for the third week of February on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, photo, job seekers arrive to meet prospective employers during a career fair at a hotel in Dallas. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits for the third week of February on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

WASHINGTON - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell a slight 3,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, a sign that layoffs remain low.

The Labor Department says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to a seasonally adjusted 338,500.

The average is roughly in line with pre-recession levels and indicates that companies are cutting few jobs. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs.

The number of applicants has stabilized in recent weeks despite modest levels of hiring in January and February. This indicates that employers don't expect a major slowdown in economic growth.

A total of 3.53 million Americans received benefits as of Feb. 1 — the latest period for which figures are available — up from 3.52 million the previous week.

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