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CLAIMS JUMP: The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000 last week after plummeting by a combined 45,000 in the previous two weeks to five-year lows.
THE TAKEAWAY: The total remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. The four-week average ticked up to 352,000, just above a four-year low. Most economists weren't concerned by either increase.
THE OUTLOOK: Thursday's report came a day before the government is scheduled to issue its January jobs report. Analysts expect that it will show employers added 155,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 7.8 percent for the third straight month.