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Jul 21, 2011 8:45 AM by Kate Richards

Unemployment benefits increase

More people applied for unemployment benefits last week, evidence that layoffs are rising and the job market is weak.

The Labor Department says applications for unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dipped to 421,250.

Applications have topped 400,000 for 15 straight weeks, a sign of sluggish hiring. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth, and stayed below 400,000 for two months. But applications then surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have declined slowly since then.

Consumers have pulled back on spending this year, besieged by high unemployment, stagnant wages, and high gas prices. The has slowed the economy.

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