Summary Box: Fewer people sought unemployment aid

APPLICATIONS FALL: Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. Applications fell 6,000 to 422,000, the third drop in four weeks. But the declines follow much larger increases in April.

STILL HIGH: Applications are far above the 375,000 level that signals robust job growth. Applications fell to 375,000 in February, but jumped in April and have remained above 400,000 for eight weeks.

HIRING SLOWING: Hiring slowed in May, economists expect. High gas prices have restrained consumer spending and made businesses more cautious about expanding, they said. Many analysts have cut their estimates for the May jobs report, which is to be released Friday.