Jan 23, 2014 23:25 Weekly applications for U.S. jobless aid mostly flat Weekly applications for U.S. jobless aid mostly flat Associated Press photo by LM OTERO -- Job seekers sign in Wednesday before meeting prospective employers during a career fair at a hotel in Dallas. The Labor Department released weekly jobless claims on Thursday. CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER| AP Economics Writer Jan. 23, 2014 Comments WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits ticked up 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, a level consistent with steady job gains. The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the third straight week to 331,500. Both figures are close to pre-recession levels and suggest that companies are laying off few workers. One sour note in the report: Nearly 1.4 million people who have been unemployed longer than six months lost benefits in the week that ended Jan. 4, the latest period for which figures are available. That’s because an emergency program that provided extended benefits expired Dec. 28. The number of recipients fell to 3.7 million from 4.7 million in the previous week. About 300,000 people began receiving unemployment benefits last week.