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The number of new claims for jobless benefits inched up by 1,000 last week, the first advance in a month, but remained at a level that analysts say reflects continued demand for workers.

New applications for unemployment insurance totaled a seasonally adjusted 308,000, the Labor Department said today.

It was the first gain since claims edged up 2,000 during the week ended Aug. 30. During the next three weeks, they fell by 13,000, 4,000 and 1,000, respectively.

Many analysts had expected a slightly larger 4,000 increase last week. They say that a claims level below 320,000 is consistent with a tight employment situation.

Economist Lynn Reaser of Barnett Banks Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., said the low claims level "underscores tautness of labor markets."

Indeed, the unemployment rate for September, to be released Friday, is expected to remain at 4.9 percent, near a 24-year low. Analysts contend that means job creation continues to match labor force growth.

The four-week average of new weekly jobless claims fell last week to 308,750, down 4,250 from 313,000 a week earlier. It was the lowest level since 308,500 during the period ended Aug. 16.

Many analysts prefer to track the less-volatile four-week average because it smooths out the spikes in the weekly reports.

During the week ended Sept. 20, 36 states and territories reported declines and 16 registered gains. The state data is reported a week later than the national totals.

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