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WASHINGTON, District of Columbia (AFP) – More people filed new claims for U.S. unemployment insurance benefits last week as the jobs market slowly improves, government data released Thursday showed.

Initial jobless claims rose to 343,000 in the week ending July 20, an increase of 7,000 from the prior week’s upwardly revised 336,000 claims, the Labor Department reported.

Last week’s increase in claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, was larger than the 340,000 reading expected on average by analysts.

Analysts noted the weekly claims reporting was being affected by auto plant shutdowns for retooling that were not occurring in their normal fashion this year.

“Unemployment insurance claims have been see-sawing for the past four weeks or so as the Fourth of July holiday and annual shutdowns at auto manufacturing plants make it difficult to seasonally adjust the data,” said Marisa Di Natale of Moody’s Analytics.

Overall, claims were grinding lower. The four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly volatility, fell by 1,250 to 345,250.

Photo Credit: AFP/Justin Sullivan

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