Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, fresh evidence that companies are confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless benefits dropped 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 271,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 3,000 to 270,750.

Applications below 300,000 typically signal a healthy job market.

Employers hired at a robust pace in October. They added the most jobs since January even after the economy stumbled in the third quarter with an annual growth rate of just 1.5 percent.

Yet businesses appear largely unfazed by the slowdown. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the low level suggests companies are cutting few jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in October from 5.1 percent.