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The number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose to the highest level since January.

Initial jobless claims rose by 15,000 to 258,000 in the week ended March 18, the Labor department said on Thursday — that was the highest level since the week ended January 28.

Thursday’s figure was higher than economists forecasts of 240,000 and up from the 243,000 registered the previous week.

Meanwhile, continuing claims, a measure of the number of people claiming benefits, was little changed at 2m.

The jobless claims data tends to be volatile and the 4-week average that smooths out weekly volatility rose by 1,000 to 240,000. The Federal Reserve noted that the US labour market has continued to strengthen when it opted to lift rates in March.

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