State and Nation Business

Unemployment benefit applications dip to 339K

WASHINGTON – The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the fifth straight decline that shows businesses see little need to cut jobs.

The Labor Department said Thursday the less volatile four-week average fell 5,750 to 344,000. The average has dropped 11 percent in the past year.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen back near pre-recession levels this month after spiking in early October because of the partial government shutdown and processing backlogs in California. The steady declines are the latest sign companies are firing fewer workers.

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