By: The Associated Press//February 7, 2013
By: The Associated Press//February 7, 2013//
WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, indicating companies continue to hire at a modest but steady pace.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 350,500, the lowest in nearly five years. The average is low because of seasonal factors, which reduced applications sharply last month.
Still, economists were encouraged by the decline. Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. When layoffs decline, net hiring typically rises.
The drop in the four-week average “is good news and supports the view that the U.S. labor market is gradually improving,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.