WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000.<br />
The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 299,750. That's just 6,000 higher than four weeks ago, when the average fell to the lowest level in more than eight years.<br />
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers hold onto their workers, it suggests they are more confident in the economy and could step up hiring.<br />
The applications data is the latest sign that the job market is steadily healing. Average job gains since February have been the best in eight years.