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Unemployment-aid applications fall to 386,000

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Trey Fortes (right) speaks with Jason Monteiro (left) of Hudson, Mass., during a job fair in Boston on Monday, June 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week, but the level of applications remains too high to signal a pickup in hiring.

The Labor Department on Thursday said weekly applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 386,000. That’s down from 392,000 the previous week, which was revised upward. The four-week average was mostly unchanged at 386,750.

Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When applications rise above 375,000, it generally means that hiring isn’t strong enough to rapidly lower the unemployment rate.

Applications fell steadily over the winter, and monthly job gains soared. Since then, applications have edged up and hiring has slowed, raising concerns about the recovery.

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