Unemployment Aid Requests Rise by 5K

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The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose by 5,000 last week.

The increase puts the number of jobless aid applications at a seasonally adjusted 417,000, the highest level in five weeks.

However, layoffs appear to be stabilizing, according to the Labor Department, which could help ease fears that the economy is on the verge of a recession.

The department said the aid request number had risen because of the 45,000 Verizon workers who went on strike earlier this month.

Last week's non-seasonally adjusted total included about 8,500 of those employees, the department said. About 12,500 striking workers filed claims two weeks ago.

Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc., calculated that without the strike, applications would have dipped to 397,000 two weeks ago and risen to 407,000 last week.

Jill Brown, an economist at Credit Suisse, said those are "decent levels" because they are consistent with a modest increase in hiring.

The number of people receiving benefits under regular state unemployment programs fell to 3.6 million. That is the fewest since Sept. 20, 2008, the week after Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis intensified.

All told, about 7.3 million unemployed people received unemployment benefits in the week ending Aug. 6, the latest data available.

The economy is barely growing two years after the recession officially ended. The government will give its second estimate on second-quarter growth on Friday.

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