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Washington (AFP) – New claims for U.S. unemployment insurance benefits edged higher last week but still remained close to a seven-year low, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Americans filed 304,000 initial jobless claims in the week ending April 12, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

Last week’s increase was much smaller than expected, with most analysts estimating 312,000 claims lodged.

Initial claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, have been slowly trending lower as the economy recovers from recession. The four-week moving average fell last week by 4,750 to 312,000, the lowest level since early October 2007.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in March amid moderate job growth over the first three months of the year.

“The low level of initial claims in the week that covers the payroll survey period flags a 200,000-plus payrolls gain in April,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

The Labor Department reports April job creation and unemployment data on May 2.

©afp.com / Chip Somodevilla

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