Claims for U.S. Unemployment Aid Slide Again

WASHINGTON (AP) -
FILE - In this April 22, 2015, file photo, a job seeker fills out an application during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. According to information released by the Labor Department on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, applications for U.S. jobless aid climbed in the week earlier, but the number of Americans seeking benefits remains close to historic lows in a positive sign for the job market. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
A job seeker fills out an application during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Fewer Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, another sign the U.S. job market remains healthy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly claims for jobless aid slid by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 258,000. The less-volatile four-week average rose by 1,000 to 252,500. Overall, 2.01 million Americans are collecting unemployment checks, down 10 percent from a year ago.

Claims have come in below 300,000 for 92 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970 when the population and labor force were much smaller. The applications are a proxy for layoffs, and the low numbers suggest that employers are hanging onto their workers and that most Americans enjoy job security. “Firms know how hard it is to find qualified staff, so they are reluctant to let people go unless they have no choice,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

The job market is robust. The Labor Department reported last week that the economy generated a solid 178,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate dropped to a nine-year low of 4.6 percent. But the joblessness rate fell largely because so many Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.