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Thanks to layoffs of seasonal workers, claims for unemployment benefits are up this week to their highest level in six weeks as the U.S. Department of Labor reported an increase of 24,000. The rise, which bucked a recent downward trend in the claims, pushed the total seeking unemployment insurance to 399,000, up from 375,000. The four-week moving average, which measures more data points and is seen as a more reliable figure, rose to 381,750, up 7,750 from the previous week's 374,000. All in all, the figures represented a bit of a setback for unemployment numbers that have been trending downward of late. Last week, the labor department put the national unemployment rate at 8.5 percent, the lowest it's been since March 2009. Let's hope that represents the overall movement of the labor market, and this week's numbers are a seasonal anomaly.

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