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Report: US Economic Growth to Speed Up

FILE - Job seekers fill out employment applications at a job fair in Miami Lakes, Florida, Oct. 22, 2014.

The Standard and Poor's credit rating agency says U.S. economic growth will speed up a bit next year, wages will grow a little faster, and the central bank will raise interest rates.

Thursday's assessment says the world's biggest economy will grow at a 3 percent rate in 2015, which is better than 2014's 2.2 percent rate of expansion.

S&P's experts say the continuing recovery means the economy no longer needs the support of record-low interest rates. They predict the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise rates from near zero to 1.25 percent by the end of 2015.

Earlier Thursday, a report from the Labor Department said the number of Americans signing up for unemployment assistance rose slightly last week, but remains near a 14-year low.

Government experts say jobless claims rose 12,000 to a nationwide total of 290,000.

Economists watch unemployment compensation claims as a way to track job layoffs across the nation. The number of such claims has now been below 300,000 for nine weeks. Economists say that may be evidence of a strengthening job market as employers gain confidence and no longer think it necessary to cut their workforce.

Other reports show the price of Brent crude oil fell to a four-year low of below $80 a barrel after reports indicating production is likely to stay strong while demand eases.

Next week, new data is expected to show a slight improvement in U.S. retail sales, which is a key indicator of economic growth. Other data will measure inflation and the health of the housing market.