Applications for US jobless aid tick down to 238,000

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign of strength in the job market.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment aid slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 238,000. That’s near a four-decade low that was reached last month. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 2,250 to 242,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Any figure below 300,000 indicates that hiring is likely healthy and employers are confident enough in future demand to keep their workers.

The data echo other evidence that the economic recovery from the Great Recession remains strong in its eighth year. The unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, and growth reached 3.3 percent at an annual rate in the July-September quarter, the fastest in three years.