Unemployment benefit applications dropped to 275,000 in the U.S. last week

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By: Martin Crutsinger/AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, keeping this key indicator of labor market health near historic lows.

The Labor Department says that weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 500 to 275,750.

Benefit applications had risen 11,000 in the previous week to 281,000. But even that temporary uptick left benefit claims, a proxy for layoffs, below the 300,000 mark. Applications have been below that level for the past six months, a stretch last seen 42 years ago.

Last week, the government reported that the unemployment rate dropped to a seven-year low of 5.1 percent in August. That puts it at a level viewed by many economists as full employment.