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Jobless claims slide again as layoffs remain muted

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WASHINGTON - Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, another sign the U.S. job market remains healthy despite a downshift in hiring in August.

The Labor Department says the number of applications for jobless aid slid by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 259,000, lowest since mid-July. Weekly claims have come in below 300,000 for 79 straight weeks, longest streak since 1970.

The less volatile four-week average slipped by 1,750 last week to 261,250.

Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low level of applications suggests that companies are hanging on to staff and that job security remains solid for most U.S. workers.

The government reported last week that employers slowed hiring to 151,000 jobs last month -- down from a monthly average of 204,000 over the past year.