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WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking jobless benefits dropped last week to the lowest level since November 1969, a sign the job market remains strong despite the partial government shutdown, now in its fifth week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment aid declined 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 199,000. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, dropped 5,500 to 215,000.

The tally of furloughed federal employees requesting unemployment aid jumped to 25,419, more than double the previous week. Those figures are tracked separately from other unemployment claims.

Weekly applications for jobless aid are a proxy for layoffs. The data suggests employers are confident enough about the economy to hold onto their workers. The Labor Department was funded before the shutdown and is still releasing its weekly report.

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