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US weekly jobless claims fall

Job seekers speak to representatives of employers at a job fair in Manhattan on March 6, 2013
Job seekers speak to representatives of employers at a job fair in Manhattan on March 6, 2013. New claims for US unemployment benefits fell last week to 340,000, suggesting continued modest strength in the jobs market on the eve of steep federal spending

New claims for US unemployment benefits fell last week to 340,000, suggesting continued modest strength in the jobs market on the eve of steep federal spending cuts, data showed Thursday.

Claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs across the country, fell by 7,000 in the week to March 2, holding below the four-week rolling average, according to the Department of Labor.

It was the last week of reporting before the start of the "sequester" spending cuts, officially launched on March 1: $85 billion in broad-based budget reductions required over the next seven months which mean furloughs for government workers, cutbacks in temporary hiring and cuts to government contracting.

The weekly figure pulled the four-week moving average of claims down to 348,750, compared with the 367,500 average of a year earlier.

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