The struggle in Washington over whether to renew expired benefits for the long-term unemployed is as much about providing aid to 1.3 million out-of-work Americans as it is about drawing the first political line of an election year.
Applications for US unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000 last week, though the figure was distorted for the second straight week by California's efforts to clear backlogged claims.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose just 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 308,000, hovering near six-year lows. The tiny increase suggests companies are still cutting very few jobs.
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