WASHINGTON (February 7, 2013)--Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, which indicates companies continue to hire at a modest but steady pace, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.
The Labor Department said weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000.
The four-week average, which is a less volatile measure, dropped to 350,500, the lowest in nearly five years.
The average is low because of seasonal factors, which reduced applications sharply last month.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs.
When layoffs decline, net hiring typically rises.
The four-week average of applications has dropped nearly 6 percent in the past three months.
At the same time, hiring has picked up.
Employers added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from November through January.