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New US Jobless Claims Increase

Job applicants wait in line at a job fair in San Jose, California, March 22, 2011 (file photo)

The number of unemployed workers seeking new U.S. government financial assistance edged up last week, more evidence that the country's economy is slowing.

The government said Thursday that 414,000 jobless workers sought their first unemployment compensation. That's 2,000 more than the previous week. The number of claims suggested that U.S. employers are not laying off significantly more workers, but they're not hiring more either.

The weekly report comes as President Barack Obama prepares to present his plan for job growth Thursday night to a joint session of Congress. Officials say his $300 billion plan will call for an extension of jobless benefits for workers who have been unemployed for extended periods, tax incentives for companies to hire more workers and funding for construction projects to fix the country's deteriorating roads and schools.

Another government report Thursday presented a more favorable picture for the country's lagging economy. The U.S. said its trade deficit diminished sharply in July, dropping more than 13 percent from June to about $45 billion. That may indicate that American manufacturers might be able to sustain weaker demand for their products within the U.S. with more sales overseas.

Exports increased to $178 billion, with the shipment of capital goods, autos and parts to customers overseas the highest on record.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.