WASHINGTON - Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, as employers hold onto workers despite a recent slowdown in hiring because of global pressures weighing on the U.S. economy.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 13,000 in the latest week, to a seasonally adjusted 263,000. That marks a low last seen in July. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, has fallen 8.2 percent over the past year and now stands at 267,500, a decline of 3,000 from the previous week.
The department said no special factors affected numbers in this report, and the previous week's report was revised downward a bit, to 276,000 from the original 277,000.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Recent lows had pointed to greater confidence among employers. Yet the recent decline in hiring points to increased caution as growth has slowed in China and stalled in Europe.
The reduced pace of growth cut into demand for oil and U.S. exports, hitting job gains in September. Employers added just 142,000 positions in the month after notching average monthly gains in excess of 200,000.