U.S. jobless claims rise less than expected

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  • Legal firm Hogan Lovells representative Nina LeClair (2nd R) talks to U.S. military veteran applicants (L) at a hiring fair for veteran job seekers and military spouses at the Verizon Center in Washington April 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron

    Legal firm Hogan Lovells representative Nina LeClair (2nd R) talks to U.S. military veteran applicants (L) at a hiring fair for veteran job seekers and military spouses at the Verizon Center in Washington April 9, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (Copyright Reuters 2016)

  • Legal firm Hogan Lovells representative Nina LeClair (2nd R) talks to U.S. military veteran applicants (L) at a hiring fair for veteran job seekers and military spouses at the Verizon Center in Washington April 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron

    Legal firm Hogan Lovells representative Nina LeClair (2nd R) talks to U.S. military veteran applicants (L) at a hiring fair for veteran job seekers and military spouses at the Verizon Center in Washington April 9, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (Copyright Reuters 2016)

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week and held at relatively healthy levels that could support

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Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates this year.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 254,000 for the week ended Sept. 24, the

Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the report to show 260,000 new claims.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which smoothes out volatility, fell 2,250 to 256,000.

Continuing claims fell 46,000 to 2.062 million in the week ended Sept. 17.

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(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)