WASHINGTON - Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 315,000, a sign the job market is picking up after a winter slump.
The Labor Department says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile figure, decreased 6,250 to 330,500, the lowest since early December.
Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The declines indicate companies are confident enough about the economy to keep their staffs.
Employers are hiring more after harsh winter weather lowered job gains in January and December, the government said last week. The economy gained 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January and only 84,000 in December.
About 3.45 million people received unemployment benefits as of Feb. 22, the latest figures available. That's 13,000 more than the previous week.