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US Layoffs Rise, Though Job Market Remains Healthy

FILE - A man clears snow in Concord, N.H. Foul weather in parts of the United States has snarled transportation and slowed some business operations.

The number of layoffs rose in the United States last week, but the job losses are still low enough to show a healthy job market.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department shows the number of Americans applying for unemployment compensation rose 7,000 to a nationwide total of 320,000.

Some analysts say an unusual amount of snow and other foul winter weather may have boosted layoffs.

On Friday, government experts are set to publish the current unemployment rate. Economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial news service predict the U.S. jobless rate will decline slightly to hit 5.6 percent. They also predict the data will show the economy had a net gain of about 240,000 jobs in February, a bit less than the prior month.

A separate survey of leading economists by shows they expect the unemployment rate to fall to 5.2 percent over the next year.