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Washington — Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, evidence that layoffs are scarce and employers are likely hiring at a solid clip.

The Labor Department says that weekly applications for unemployment aid slipped 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 262,000. The four-week average, typically a less volatile measure, rose 3,000 to 265,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have remained below 300,000 for 76 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970. The low readings are more impressive given the growth in the U.S. population since then.

As layoffs fall, hiring has improved, though it remains modest by historical standards. Employers added 255,000 jobs in July, after a strong 292,000 in June, the most in eight months. More Americans earning paychecks should boost growth in the coming months.

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