By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, reducing the average number of weekly applications last month to a five-year low. The drop shows that fewer layoffs are strengthening the job market.
The Labor Department says applications fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 332,000. That pushed the four-week average to 346,750, the lowest since March 2008, just several months after the Great Recession began.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen nearly 13 percent since November.
At the same time, net hiring has picked up. Employers have added an average of 200,000 jobs per month from November through February, up from about 150,000 a month in the previous four months.
The unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February from 7.9 percent the previous month.