New jobless claims retreat in the latest report

WASHINGTON - Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, a sign that businesses are holding onto their workers and hiring is likely solid.

The Labor Department said weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 3,000 to 258,000, not far from the 43-year low reached last month. Applications have been below 300,000 for 86 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the low level suggests companies are cutting few jobs. That typically means they’re willing to add workers as well. Hiring has slowed a bit in the past few months, but it’s still strong enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

About 2.04 million people are receiving unemployment aid, the government said, the fewest since June 2000.