Labor Department says average for US jobless claims at fresh 5-year low

Layoff decline helps strengthen job market

WASHINGTON - The number of people seeking unemployment aid barely changed last week and the average over the past month fell to a fresh five-year low.  A decline in layoffs is helping strengthen the job market, officials said.

The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications rose just 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 7,500 to 339,750. That's the lowest since February 2008, just three months into the recession.

A steady decline in unemployment claims signals companies are laying off fewer workers. That suggests they aren't worried that business will fall off in the near future.