Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, another sign of strength in the job market.

The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 271,000. The less volatile 4-week average was essentially unchanged at 271,000. Claims have been near historic lows for nine months.

Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. And most Americans are enjoying job security. Layoffs have fallen to pre-recession levels. The unemployment rate last month stayed at a seven-year low of 5 percent. Employers have been adding a healthy 210,000 jobs a month so far this year.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday delivered a vote of confidence in the economy's health, raising short-term interest rates for the first time since June 2006.