US claims for jobless aid drop to lowest since mid-April

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 last week felt to the lowest level since mid-April, another sign that workers are enjoying job security despite sluggish economic growth.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid slid by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 249,000. The less volatile four-week average dropped 2,500 to 253,500, the lowest level since December 1973.

Any weekly number below 300,000 suggests the labor market is healthy. Claims have come in below that level for 83 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 when the U.S. labor force was about half as big as it is now.

Claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low numbers show that employers are holding onto staff even though economic growth has been lackluster since late last year.

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