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U.S. jobless claims edge up after three weeks of declines

Staff Writer |
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week and the four-week moving average of claims hit a 44-year low.

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Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 for the week ended May 20, the Labor Department said. The increase followed three straight weeks of declines.

It was the 116th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market.

That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 10-year low of 4.4 percent.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 5,750 to 235,250 last week, the lowest level since April 1973.

Department reported on Thursday that the goods trade deficit rose 3.8 percent to $67.6 billion in April amid a drop in exports. At the same time, both wholesale and retail inventories fell 0.3 percent last month.

Trade made no contribution to GDP growth in the first quarter while inventory investment subtracted 0.93 percentage point from output.

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