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Unemployment aid up last week

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WASHINGTON (AP) - More Americans sought unemployment aid last week, suggesting hiring remains sluggish.

The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications rose 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the third straight week to 382,000, the highest in six weeks.

Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. They fell steadily during the fall and winter but have since leveled off.

At the same time, hiring has slowed, raising concerns about the pace of the recovery. Employers added an average of only 96,000 jobs per month in the past three months. That's down from an average of 252,000 in the previous three months.

When applications drop below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.

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