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The number of people applying for US unemployment benefits rose 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, though the broader trend in applications remained stable.
But the four-week average was unchanged at 338,250, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The average is not far above pre-recession levels, a sign companies are laying off few workers.
Economists said that winter storms two weeks ago may have caused some people to delay submitting their applications until last week, temporarily boosting the figures.
‘‘Other evidence continues to point clearly to reasonably robust labor demand so we very much doubt the underlying trend in claims is picking up,’’ Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note to clients.