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Business Highlights

By The Associated Press

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Applications for US jobless aid reach 5-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, reducing the average number of weekly applications last month to a five-year low. The drop shows that fewer layoffs are strengthening the job market.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications fell by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 332,000. That reduced the four-week average to 346,750, the lowest since the week of March 8, 2008, three months after the Great Recession began.

The report "provides further evidence of a gradual strengthening in labor market conditions," Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

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Samsung set to launch new iPhone challenger

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Samsung's Galaxy S III smartphone has done very well, briefly unseating the iPhone as the best-selling smartphone in the world. The Korean company is launching a new phone it hopes can top that, and entrench the company as the main competitor to Apple.

Samsung has rented New York's Radio City Music Hall for an event Thursday evening, and has been hinting that will reveal a fourth-generation Galaxy phone. Judging by the announcement of the S III in May, this means the new phone will be available in stores in a month or two.

It's not known what the new phone will look like or how it will differ from its predecessor, but there's speculation that Samsung will once again increase the screen size. Every successive generation of the Galaxy line has been bigger than the one before it. The S III has a screen measuring 4.8 inches on the diagonal, substantially larger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen.

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Census shows record number of US counties are dying

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A record number of U.S. counties â¿¿ more than one in three â¿¿ are dying off, hit by an aging population and weakened local economies that spur young adults to seek jobs and build families elsewhere.

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