US applications for jobless aid fall to four-decade low

FILE - In this April 22, 2015 file photo, Ralph Logan, general manager of Microtrain, left, speaks with James Smith who is seeking employment during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. U.S. employers notched another solid month of hiring in March by adding 215,000 jobs, driven by large gains in the construction, retail and health care industries. Despite the jump, the Labor Department said Friday, April 1, 2016 that the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent from 4.9 percent. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
FILE - In this April 22, 2015 file photo, Ralph Logan, general manager of Microtrain, left, speaks with James Smith who is seeking employment during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. U.S. employers notched another solid month of hiring in March by adding 215,000 jobs, driven by large gains in the construction, retail and health care industries. Despite the jump, the Labor Department said Friday, April 1, 2016 that the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent from 4.9 percent. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a four-decade low last week, a sign that employers are unconcerned about weak economic growth in the first three months of 2016.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless benefits declined to a seasonally adjusted 247,000, the lowest reading since November 1973. The four-week average, a less-volatile figure, dropped 4,500 to 260,500.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The historically low figures indicate that employers are holding onto workers and possibly looking to hire more, a positive sign for an economy that endured a rocky start to the year.

The low level of applications generally corresponds with monthly net job gains for more than 200,000. Applications have been below 300,000 for 59 straight weeks, the longest consecutive period since 1973.

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