WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits edged up slightly last week but remained at a level that indicated a healthy labor market.

The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications rose by 2,000 to 315,000. The four-week average, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, was essentially unchanged at 315,000.

The average has fallen by 9% since the beginning of this year. Unemployment benefit applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the declines indicate that companies are cutting fewer jobs.

A separate report Thursday showed that the economy created 288,000 jobs in June, the fifth straight month of strong job creation above 200,000 per month. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.1%, the lowest rate since September 2008.

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