WASHINGTON - The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 24,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 334,000, a sign that steady job gains should continue.
The Labor Department says the four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, dropped 5,250 to 351,000.
The trend in applications has been positive this year, although the weekly applications data can be volatile in July. Automakers typically shut their factories in the first two weeks of the month to prepare for new models. That can create a spike in temporary layoffs. But this year much of the industry has skipped or shortened the shutdowns to keep up with stronger demand, likely a reason for the decline.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have declined 5 per cent since January. That has coincided with stronger job growth.