WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, but remained at historically low levels that signal a strengthening job market.
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The Labor Department says weekly applications increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 250 to 281,000, the lowest level in more than 14 years.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs and have fallen 20 percent in the past year. The steady decline suggests that businesses are sufficiently confident in the economy to hold onto their staffs. That same confidence could lead them to step up hiring.
The economy expanded at a solid annual rate of 3.5 percent in the July-September quarter, according to a separate government report. That's healthy enough to encourage more hiring.