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Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, easing concern that post-holiday firings were on the rise.

Jobless claims plunged by 50,000 to 352,000 in the week ended Jan. 14, the lowest level since April 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 41 economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected 384,000. A Labor Department spokesman said the decrease reflected the usual volatility seen during this time of year.

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