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WASHINGTON — U.S. average rates on long-term mortgages changed little this week as they hover at historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year home loan edged up to 2.87% from 2.86% last week. By contrast, the rate averaged 3.73% a year ago.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 2.35% from 2.37% from last week.

Housing demand continues as one of few bright spots in the pandemic-hobbled economy. Spurred by the low loan rates, first-time home purchases jumped 19% in August from July, to the highest monthly level ever tracked, according to Freddie Mac. Still, the lack of available homes for sale is a constraint.

In the wider economy, the government reported Thursday that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high number of people that points up the broad economic damage still occurring nine months after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the US.