WASHINGTON – The number of people applying for unemployment aid fell last week to its lowest level in nearly five decades, solid evidence that the job market is healthy and layoffs scarce.
The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 196,000. That is the lowest since October 1969. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 207,000, the lowest since December 1969.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the ongoing decline — applications have tumbled for four straight weeks — signals that businesses are confident enough about future demand to hold onto their workers. That confidence is also spurring more hiring: Job gains rebounded last month after a sharp slowdown in February, suggesting the economy remains resilient in its 10th year of expansion.