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Jobless claims fall back near recent low

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped significantly last week, a sign of a robust job market.

The Labor Department says weekly requests for jobless aid fell 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 235,000. That’s barely above the 233,000 jobless claims achieved in late November, the lowest weekly total since 1973. The less volatile four-week moving average for claims fell 5,750 to 256,750.

This historically low level of applications for unemployment benefits suggests that employers are holding onto workers and likely looking to add jobs. Weekly claims have stayed below the critical threshold of 300,000 for 96 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1970.

Employers are expected to add roughly 170,000 jobs in the government’s December jobs report, which will be released Friday.

The monthly report from payroll provider ADP released today showed private U.S. companies added a modest 153,000 jobs last month, all in service industries such as retail and health care.