WASHINGTON - The number of people seeking unemployment aid barely changed last week and the average over the past month fell to a fresh five-year low. A decline in layoffs is helping strengthen the job market.
The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications rose just 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 7,500 to 339,750. That's the lowest since February 2008, just three months into the recession.
A steady decline in unemployment claims signals companies are laying off fewer workers. That suggests they aren't worried that business will fall off in the near future.
The average has fallen nearly 15 percent since November. Fewer layoffs typically suggest that net hiring will pick up.