Applications for jobless aid fell sharply last week

Josh Boak
Associated Press

Washington — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week in a sign of a stable job market despite the slowing global economy hitting stocks and commodities.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 269,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined slightly to 281,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The relatively low number suggests that companies are holding onto workers and possibly looking to hire more. The weekly jobless claims figure has remained beneath a key threshold of 300,000 for almost a full year, a level that usually corresponds with net monthly job gains of 200,000 or more.

Still, the pace of hiring of slowed in January as employers added 151,000 jobs, down from robust gains in December and November.