WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits plummeted last week to 352,000, the fewest since April 2008. The decline added to evidence that the job market is strengthening.
The Labor Department says weekly applications fell 50,000, the biggest drop in the seasonally adjusted figure in more than six years. The four-week average, which smooths out fluctuations, dropped to 379,000. That's the second-lowest such figure in more than three years.
A Labor Department spokesman cautioned that volatility at this time of year is common. Applications had jumped two weeks ago, largely because companies laid off thousands of temporary workers hired for the holidays.
When weekly applications fall consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to push down the unemployment rate.