WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits declined slightly last week, leaving applications above levels consistent with a healthy economy.
The Labor Department says weekly applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000. The department revised last week's figure upward to 409,000.
Applications are slowly edging down. The four-week average fell for the fourth straight week to 403,000. A month ago it was 422,250.
Still, applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven't been below that level since February.
Economists have been closely watching the unemployment benefits report since fears of another recession intensified in August. Layoffs and applications tend to rise at the beginning of recessions. The slow decline in applications suggests hiring remains sluggish but layoffs aren't worsening.