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Fewest Americans in 7 yrs. seek unemployment aid

WASHINGTON--The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in seven years last week, a sign the job market is steadily improving.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 24,000 to 297,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the fewest since May 12, 2007. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dipped 2,000 to 323,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the decline is evidence that employers are cutting fewer jobs. Weekly applications topped 650,000 in March 2009, during the Great Recession.

Fewer people are also receiving benefits each week. The number of recipients fell to 2.67 million, the fewest since Dec. 1, 2007, when the recession began.

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