WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since 1973 last week, evidence that businesses are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers.
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The Labor Department says that applications for unemployment aid dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 235,000 last week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 253,500.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, which have fallen to near-record low levels, according to separate government data. Hiring is typically solid when layoffs are scarce, suggesting that steady job gains should continue.
Companies have slowed their hiring from last year but are adding jobs quickly enough to lower the unemployment rate over time. The economy gained 161,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent.