Applications for unemployment benefits plummet - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Applications for unemployment benefits plummet

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, a sign that a recent string of strong job gains may continue.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 21,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 283,000. The four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, fell 6,500 to 289,750, its lowest level in 15 weeks.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have been near or below 300,000 since September, a very low reading by historical standards that points to solid hiring. The average has dropped 16 percent in the past year.

That decline has coincided with much stronger job gains. Employers added more than 1 million jobs from November through January, the strongest three-month pace in 17 years.

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