WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to its lowest level in eight years.<br />
The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000. That's the lowest reading since February 2006, nearly two years before the Great Recession began.<br />
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 7,250 to 302,000. Claims for jobless aid have been falling for the past three months.<br />
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When businesses hold onto staff, increased hiring and stronger economic growth often follows.<br />
Hiring is at its healthiest clip since the late 1990s and the 6.1 percent unemployment rate is at a 5 1/2-year low. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the fifth straight month of job gains above 200,000.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
North Georgia's sunny sky and comfortable temperatures brought out the visitors Saturday to the 20th Annual 'Day at the Fort' at Fort Hollingsworth, nestled in the rolling Banks County countryside near Alto.