WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 323,000, a fresh five-year low. The decline signals fewer layoffs and possibly more hiring.
The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile figure, dropped 6,250 to 336,750. That the fewest since November 2007, before the recession began.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Job cuts have fallen to levels consistent with a healthy economy. That's helped boost net job gains in recent months. Employers added 165,000 jobs in April and gains for February and March were revised much higher.
But layoffs are only one part of the job market. Companies also need to step up hiring to rapidly drive down the unemployment rate, which remains high at 7.5 percent.