WASHINGTON The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 11,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, a level consistent with steady job growth.
The Labor Department says applications dropped from 357,000, which was revised up from an initially reported 354,000. The less volatile four-week average rose 4,500 to 352,500.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen 7 percent in the past six months and hit a five-year low of 338,000 in early May.
Still, layoffs are only half of an improving jobs picture. The other is hiring, and companies have been reluctant to rapidly create many more jobs.
On Friday, the government reports on May employment. Economists expect it will show a modest gain of 170,000 jobs.