Weekly jobless claims drop to 326K, fewest since Jan. '08

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 23: An elderly South Korean job seeker fills out job applications at an elderly persons' job fair on September 23, 2005 in Seoul, South Korea. When the percentage of those aged 65 or older to the total population is greater than 7%, the population is called an Ageing Society. South Korea has the world's fastest ageing population which could signal a death knell for South Korea's economic progress. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Chung Sung-Jun

WASHINGTON The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 19,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the fewest since January 2008. The decline signals more strength for the job market.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average slid 4,500 to 345,750.

The July figures are typically volatile as the government adjusts for seasonal layoffs in the auto industry.

Still, the trend in recent months has been positive. Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen more than 12 percent this year. That's coincided with average gains of 202,000 jobs a month since January.

The payroll company ADP said Wednesday that companies created 200,000 jobs in July, the most for that survey since December. That's a hopeful sign ahead of Friday's Labor Department report on July employment.