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US jobless applicants down 9,000

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has reached its lowest level in seven weeks, a sign that the US economy and job market are steadily improving.

The Labour Department says applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 8,500 to 290,250. That average has plunged 16% in the past 12 months.

Applications are a proxy for lay-offs. The number of people seeking jobless benefits has been at historically low levels - below 300,000 - for 14 of the past 15 weeks. That indicates companies are retaining their workers and potentially looking to hire with the expectation that economic growth will continue.

In November, employers added 321,000 jobs, the most in nearly three years.

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