Applications for US jobless benefits fall to 331k

Applications for US jobless benefits fall to 331k

Credit: (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Job seekers crowd around the California Employment Development Department table to get information on available jobs during the California Job Journal HIREvent February 10, 2009 in San Francisco, California. With the nation's unemployment rate at 7.6 percent, hundreds of job seekers flocked to the California Job Journal HIREvent job fair where approximately 1,700 jobs from a variety of different companies were available. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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by Josh Boak / The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 9:22 AM

WASHINGTON -- The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits declined 20,000 last week to 331,000, suggesting that Americans are facing fewer layoffs and better job prospects.

The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up 250 to 334,000. That remains near pre-recession levels and serves as evidence that job losses have waned.

A total of 3.47 million Americans received benefits as of Jan. 18, down from 3.58 million the week before.

The January employment report being released Friday by the Labor Department will show whether hiring has improved. A scant 74,000 jobs were added in December, the fewest in three years. Most economists forecast that hiring will rebound in January to roughly match the monthly average of 185,000 jobs gained over the past two years.

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