WASHINGTON The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the fifth straight decline that shows businesses see little need to cut jobs.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average fell 5,750 to 344,000. The average has dropped 11 percent in the past year.
Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, are back near pre-recession levels after spiking in early October because of the partial government shutdown and the processing backlogs in California. The steady declines are the latest sign that companies are firing very few workers.
Last week's report on hiring and unemployment in October showed that businesses are also adding workers at a steady pace.