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New claims for jobless benefits rise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Initial requests for jobless benefits rose last week to their highest level since April, a sign that hiring remains weak and some companies are still cutting workers.

The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance rose by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 479,000. Analysts had expected a small drop. Claims have risen twice in the past three weeks.

Some of the increase in claims stemmed from difficulties the government has in adjusting for seasonal factors.

But the jump in claims is a cautionary sign that higher corporate profits and a slowly recovering economy aren't spurring companies to generate many jobs.

"The very unyielding flow of layoffs now clearly evident discourages any thought that employers are more comfortable with the size of their staffs," Pierre Ellis, an economist at Decision Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

Also on Thursday, retailers reported modest sales gains in July, raising concerns about the health of the back-to-school shopping season. Many stores, including teen specialists Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc., had to discount more than they had planned in June and July to pull in recession-scarred shoppers.

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