WASHINGTON -- Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, providing support for the view that there will be stronger job growth this year.
The Labor Department says applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 385,000 last week, marking the third decline in the past four weeks.
The four-week average for claims dropped to 386,250. That was the lowest level since July 2008, providing evidence that the job market is on a more solid footing.
Benefit applications below 425,000 signal modest job growth. But the level of applications needs to fall below 375,000 to be seen as a sign of sustained declines in the unemployment rate. Benefit applications peaked at 651,000 during the recession.