Fewer Americans applying for jobless aid

WASHINGTON – Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, as the number of people collecting jobless aid fell to its lowest level in more than six years.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined to 311,750.

There are 2.56 million people receiving benefits. That’s the lowest total since October 2007, about two months before the recession began.

Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the report in a “blinding glimpse of the obvious” is clearly “good news.”

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the relatively low number of people seeking benefits shows employers are letting go of fewer workers. When businesses are confident enough to keep staff, they also may hire more workers. Job gains should feed stronger economic growth.