The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has reached its lowest level in seven weeks, a sign that the U.S. economy and job market are steadily improving.
The Labor Department says applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000.
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The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 8,500 to 290,250. That average has plunged 16 percent in the past 12 months.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The number of people seeking jobless benefits has been at historically low levels — below 300,000 — for 14 of the past 15 weeks. That indicates that companies are retaining their workers and potentially looking to hire with the expectation that economic growth will continue.
In November, employers added 321,000 jobs, the most in nearly three years.