WASHINGTON -- The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in two months, suggesting employers remain confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers.
The Labor Department said Thursday morning that weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000. That's the lowest level since July, when applications plunged to a 41-year low.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline indicates that employers are cutting fewer jobs. Americans are enjoying strong job security: Applications have been below 300,000 for the past six months, which hasn't happened since 1973.
Employers have also been hiring at a solid pace, adding an average of 243,000 a month in the past 12 months. That has brought the unemployment rate down to 5.1 percent.
That's a key element in today's decision by the Federal Reserve regarding its interest rate policy. Many argue that the labor market's ongoing strength is a primary reason to raise short-term interest rates.