Unemployment aid applications drop to 7-month low


WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since early April, a sign that layoffs are easing and hiring may pick up.

Weekly applications dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000, the Labor Department said today. It was the fourth decline in five weeks.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 396,750. That's the first time the average been below 400,000 in seven months.

Applications need to consistently drop below 375,000 to signal sustained job gains. They haven't been that low since February.

The job market "is still weak but there are hopeful signs of some modest improvement," Steven Wood, an economist at Insight Economics, in a note to clients.

The number of people receiving benefits also fell to the lowest level since Sept. 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis intensified.

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