WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped by a sharp 36,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, a sign that the job market is strengthening.
The Labor Department says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 299,500. The total number of people collecting benefits during the first week of September was 2.43 million, the fewest since May 2007.
Applications for unemployment benefits remain at pre-recession levels. The number of people seeking benefits has been trending downward for the past four months.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When fewer people seek benefits, it suggests that employers are keeping their workers, likely because they are more confident about economic growth and poised to hire.