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WASHINGTON (AFP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week but the trend in layoffs continued to push lower, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Initial jobless claims totaled 336,000 in the week ending August 17, a gain of 13,000 from the prior week’s revised reading of 323,000.

Claims were in line with the average analyst estimate of 337,000.

The four-week moving average of new claims fell by 2,250 to 330,500, the lowest level in nearly six years. The average was 10.4 percent lower than a year ago, further evidence of slow improvement in the distressed labor market since the Great Recession began in late 2007.

The unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.4 percent in July, from 7.6 percent in June, but jobs growth came in at a paltry 162,000.

Photo Credit: AFP/Saul Loeb

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President Joe Biden

Photo by The White House

Two tiresome realities about being president of the United States: first, everybody blames you for things over which you have little or no control: such as the worldwide price of oil, and international shipping schedules. Should there be too few electronic gee-gaws on store shelves to pacify American teenagers this Christmas, it will be Joe Biden’s fault.

Second, everybody gives you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Everywhere you look, Democrats and Democratically-inclined pundits are tempted to panic. “The cold reality for Biden,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait “is that his presidency is on the brink of failure.” A return to Trumpism, and essentially the end of American democracy, strikes Chait as altogether likely.

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