The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dipped 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, evidence that layoffs are low and hiring will likely remain steady.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average rose 8,500 to 357,250. The average was driven up in recent weeks by spikes that reflected seasonal volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The government struggles to account for seasonal hiring by retailers and other businesses and for temporary layoffs of school employees during the holidays.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They appear to have stabilized near the pre-recession levels reached in the late summer and are at a level consistent with solid hiring.
The unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November.