WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell for the first time in three weeks, pushing total applications down to a low 239,000, further evidence of the strength of the labor market.
The Labor Department on Wednesday reported that applications dropped by 13,000 last week after rising by 13,000 the previous week. The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, rose by 1,250 to 239,750.
The number of people receiving benefits rose by 36,000 to 1.9 million, still near a 44-year low.
Applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. The level of unemployment benefits has been below 300,000 for more than two years, a stretch not equaled in more than four decades. Employers added 261,000 jobs in October as the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent.
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