WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 320,000.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average fell 4,000 to 332,000, the fewest since November 2007 and the fifth straight decline.
Companies are laying off fewer workers, a trend that has lowered applications for unemployment benefits 14 percent this year. But hiring is still sluggish, resulting in only modest net job growth.
At the depth of the recession in March 2009, applications for unemployment benefits numbered 670,000. They have fallen steadily ever since.
“The underlying story in jobless claims is one of a continued improvement,” Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a note to clients. But “we need to see the pace of hiring pick up in order for payroll growth to accelerate from its current pace.”