The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 343,000 last week, a sign that layoffs remain low and companies are adding a modest number of jobs.
The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile figure, dipped just 750 to 345,500. The average has fallen 9 percent in the past year.
Weekly applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. Since March, they have fluctuated roughly between 340,000 and 360,000, a level consistent with steady hiring.
On Friday, the government will issue its June jobs report. Economists forecast that it will show employers added 165,000 jobs, slightly below the 175,000 gain in May. The unemployment rate likely ticked down to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent.