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​Fewer jobless claims show U.S. labor market strength

WASHINGTON - Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, suggesting that the job market remains insulated from the turmoil abroad in Europe and China.

The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000, which is a drop of 10,000 from the previous week's report. The less volatile 4-week average slipped 1,250 to 275,750.

Jobless claims at those levels point to a robust environment for hiring. Weekly figures below 300,000 tend to correspond with strong monthly job gains.

Applications for benefits are a proxy for layoffs, so the consistent lows for claims suggest that employers are holding onto staff and possibly looking to expand.

The report indicates that job growth should be healthy in the December payroll report the federal government releases on Friday morning.

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