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Reports: US Economy Gains Some Strength

A house is for sale in San Diego, California, June 2012.
A house is for sale in San Diego, California, June 2012.
​Economic reports published Thursday show improvements in the U.S. housing and job markets.

​A trade group says strong demand for houses pushed prices up more than 12 percent over the past year. The National Association of Realtors says that is the biggest price gain in more than seven years.

Severe problems in the housing market played a key role in the economic crisis, which prompted a wave of layoffs and boosted the unemployment rate.

The Labor Department says that has changed. The number of Americans signing up for unemployment compensation has fallen to the lowest level in six years.

Thursday's report says the average number of people asking for compensation each week fell by an average of more than 6,000 over the last month.

That pushed the average number of jobless claims down to just 335,500 per week. The claims are a way of tracking layoffs, which have not been this low since late 2007.

The U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 7.4 percent. While that is an improvement, it is above the five or six percent rate that has been the norm over the past couple of decades.
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