​Weekly jobless claims drop to low 253,000

WASHINGTON -The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plunged last week, matching a March figure that was the lowest level since 1973.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless benefits fell 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000. The four-week average, a less-volatile figure, dipped 1,500 to 265,000.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The historically low figures over the past year indicate a healthy job market. Employers so far are looking past recent economic sluggishness, with some analysts forecasting that growth may slide below a 1 percent annual rate for the first three months of 2016.

The low level of applications generally corresponds with monthly net job gains for more than 200,000. Applications have been below 300,000 for 58 straight weeks, the longest consecutive period since 1973.