The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended July 4 jumped to the highest level since February, mainly because of annual shutdowns at auto plants in states such as Michigan and Ohio for retooling. Initial jobless claims climbed 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000 in the period stretching from June 28 to July 4, the government said Thursday. Unadjusted claims more than doubled in Michigan and rose by 50% in Ohio. New York and California also saw big increases, with most other states showing little change. The average of initial U.S. claims over the past month, meanwhile, rose by a smaller 4,500 to 279,500, indicating that layoffs remain low nationwide. The four-week average smooths out sharp fluctuations in the more volatile weekly report and is seen as a more accurate predictor of labor-market trends. Weekly claims tend to gyrate in July because of temporary auto plant shutdowns and seasonal changes in education-related employment during the summer school break. Continuing jobless claims rose by 69,000 to 2.33 million in the week ended June 27. Continuing claims, reported with a one-week lag, reflect people already receiving unemployment checks.
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