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Washington — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined slightly last week, falling to the lowest point in 13 weeks.

The Labor Department says that weekly benefit applications dipped by 1,000 to 253,000, the lowest level since it stood at 248,000 for the week of April 16. The weekly claims applications had been at 254,000 for the previous two weeks.

Weekly claims, which are a proxy for layoffs, have been below 300,000 for 72 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1973. Despite this prolonged low level, there had been worries that employment growth was slowing after weak reports in April and May. However, the anemic increase of 11,000 jobs in May was followed by a gain of 287,000 in June, easing fears that the country’s job machine might be sputtering.

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