WASHINGTON (March 21, 2013)--The number of people seeking unemployment benefits barely changed last week and the average over the past month fell to a fresh five-year low as a decline in layoffs is helping strengthen the job market, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The Labor Department said weekly unemployment benefit applications rose just 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 7,500 to 339,750, the lowest since February 2008, just three months into the recession.
A steady decline in unemployment claims signals companies are laying off fewer workers, which suggests they aren't worried that business will fall off in the near future.
The average has fallen nearly 15 percent since November.
Fewer layoffs typically suggest that net hiring will pick up.