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Applications for US unemployment benefits increase to 311k; averages at pre-recession levels

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FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, file photo, Carmen Nazario of Albany, N.Y., fills out an employment application during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y. The Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File) (The Associated Press)

More people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, although jobless claims continue to be close to pre-recession levels.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment aid climbed 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 311,000. The prior week's was revised up slightly to 290,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,000 to 295,750. That continues to be close to averages that predate the beginning of the Great Recession in late 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When fewer employers shed workers, it suggests potentially rising incomes, increased hiring activity and confidence that the economy is improving.

Employers are searching for more workers. In June, they advertised the most monthly job openings in more than 13 years, the government reported Tuesday.