By PAUL WISEMAN

WASHINGTON (AP) —The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits edged higher last week to 745,000, a sign that many employers continue to cut jobs despite a drop in confirmed viral infections and evidence that the overall economy is improving.

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Thursday’s report from the Labor Department shows that jobless claims rose by 9,000 from the previous week.

Though the pace of layoffs has eased since the year began, they remain high by historical standards.

Before the virus flattened the U.S. economy a year ago, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any week, even during the Great Recession.

All told, 4.3 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits.

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