The government said Thursday that applications for unemployment benefits fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. It was the third decline in the four weeks. Applications are now at their lowest level since late May 2008.
The four-week average for applications, a less volatile figure, fell last week to 388,500. That was the lowest level since July 2008, the last time the four-week average was below 400,000.
The downward trend suggests that companies are easing the pace of layoffs now that the economy is gaining momentum. During the recession, companies slashed work forces, cut or froze workers’ pay and took other aggressive steps to reduce costs.
Companies are expected to increase hiring in the month ahead.