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Claims for Jobless Benefits Rise

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits for the first time rose a slight 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 372,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, evidence that the job market’s recovery remains modest and uneven.

Separately, the Commerce Department said new-home sales rose 3.6 percent in July.

Applications for unemployment benefits are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they fall consistently below 375,000, it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

New claims for unemployment benefits have risen for two straight weeks. But they are still lower than they were five weeks ago. That suggests hiring may be improving slightly this month.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,750 last week to 368,000.

Better economic growth bolstered hiring last month, according to government figures. Employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the most since February. Job gains averaged only 73,000 jobs a month from April through June, not enough to keep up with a rising population. The unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent in July, from 8.2 percent the month before.

Many economists say stronger growth is needed to create enough jobs to lower unemployment. The economy grew at an annual rate of 1.5 percent from April through June, down from 2 percent in the first quarter and 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

In a separate report, the government said sales of newly constructed homes in the United States rose 3.6 percent in July, matching a two-year high, to an annual rate of 372,000 units.

In the past 12 months, new-home sales have jumped 25 percent. Still, the increase is from a historically low level. New-home sales are well below the annual pace of 700,000 that economists consider healthy.

One trend holding back sales is that there aren’t many newly built homes available. New homes for sale dipped last month to 142,000, the lowest on records dating back to 1963.

Claims for Jobless Benefits Rise

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