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(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

(Bloomberg) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits over the past four weeks than at any time in almost 15 years, signaling underlying strength in the labor market even as hiring cooled last month.

From mid-March through the seven days ended April 4, jobless claims averaged 282,250 a week, the lowest since June 2000, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. Applications over the latest week climbed by 14,000 to 281,000. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 283,000.

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