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Washington โ€” More people sought U.S. unemployment aid last week, but applications are still at a low level consistent with steady job growth.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, increased just 250 to 259,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the data indicates that businesses are holding tightly onto their staffs, despite overseas economic turmoil and modest growth in the U.S. Applications have been below 300,000, a historically low level, for 55 straight weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

When businesses are cutting few workers, they are more likely to step up hiring. Employers added a healthy 242,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent.

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