By MATT OTT
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of unemployed workers filing for jobless benefits remained the same from the previous week at 245,000, a low level signaling a strong job market.
The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, climbed 1,750 to 237,750, the Labor Department said on Thursday.
Applications are often seen as a proxy for layoffs, and any reading below 300,000 is considered historically low. Many employers are finding it difficult to fill their open jobs, and are thus trying hard to retain their existing work force.
In total, about 1.94 million people are receiving jobless benefits, an increase of 7,000 from the previous week. Last year at this time, about 2.1 million Americans were receiving jobless benefits.
Steady economic growth is encouraging more hiring. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.
Claims continue to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands and data gathering in Puerto Rico still has not returned to normal, the government said.
The Federal Reserve and many economists believe the unemployment rate could soon fall below 4 percent for the first time since 2000.