WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest level since October, evidence that employers are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their staffs.

The Labor Department says weekly jobless benefit applications fell 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 259,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped 2,500 to 267,500, the lowest reading since the week of Oct. 31.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the figures indicate that employers are cutting few jobs. Any reading below 300,000 is historically low. When unemployment claims are this low, it typically means businesses are also hiring at a steady pace.

The data comes after last week’s jobs report showed that employers added 242,000 jobs in February and the unemployment rate stayed 4.9 percent.


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