Weekly jobless claims tick up but still near lows

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WASHINGTON - Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but the overall levels still remain near historic lows in a positive sign for the job market.

The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 263,000, matching its four-week moving average. The number of people collecting unemployment checks has fallen 4.4 percent from a year ago to 2.16 million.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have remained below 300,000 for 78 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970 when the total number of U.S. workers was much lower.

The modest level of jobless claims suggests that hiring was solid in August. The government jobs report being released Friday is expected to show employers added 180,000 jobs last month, according to economists surveyed by FactSet.