WASHINGTON - Slightly fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, pushing the average number of applications in the past month to an eight-year low.
The Labor Department says weekly applications fell 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 in the week ended Oct. 4. That is the fourth straight week that applications have been below 300,000, a clear sign of a job market on the mend.
The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, dropped 7,250 to 287,750, the lowest level since February 2006, nearly two years before the Great Recession began.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen 9 percent in the past month. That suggests employers are keeping their workers, likely because they expect continued economic growth and may be contemplating more hires.