Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, another sign that U.S. workers are enjoying job security.
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THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that claims for jobless aid fell by 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 246,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 2,250 to 248,000. Overall, 2.06 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, down more than 8 percent from a year ago.
THE TAKEAWAY: Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low levels suggest that employers are confident enough in the economy to be hanging on to their workers. Weekly unemployment claims have now come in below 300,000 for 100 straight weeks, longest such streak since 1970.
KEY DRIVES: The U.S. labor market is solid. The unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, close to a nine-year low and to what economists consider full employment. Employers last year added 180,000 jobs a month, solid but down from a monthly average of 229,000 in 2015.
The Labor Department releases its jobs report for January on Friday. Economists expect that the economy generated 175,000 new jobs last month and that unemployment remained at 4.7 percent.
PAUL WISEMAN, AP Economics Writer