The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to a four-year low last week, as layoffs slow and the job market strengthens.
Weekly applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 357,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That's the fewest since April 2008.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 361,750, also the lowest in four years. The average has fallen nearly 13 per cent in the past six months.
When unemployment benefit applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
On Friday, the government issues its March jobs report, which is expected to show the fourth straight month of strong hiring. From December through February, employers added an average of 245,000 jobs per month. That has pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.3 per cent, the lowest in three years.
Hiring is picking up as the economy is showing signs of steady growth. Consumer spending jumped in February by the most in seven months, the government said last week.