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Unemployment applications inch up to 10-month high

WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since May, though the level of applications remains at a level consistent with steady hiring.

The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 320,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 10,250 to 304,750, a six-week high.

The number of applications tends to reflect the pace of U.S. layoffs. The four-week average has remained near or below 300,000 since September, a historically low level that typically signals healthy job gains.

There are some signs that heavy snow and unseasonably cold weather have played a role in increasing the number of layoffs. Several states said two weeks ago that applications had risen because of bad weather.

CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer