Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment aid fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 369,000, a level consistent with modest hiring.
The Labor Department says unemployment benefit applications dropped by 23,000, from a revised 392,000 the previous week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 368,000.
The figures appear to have stabilized after being distorted in the previous two weeks by seasonal adjustment problems.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they fall below 375,000, it suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
Applications have fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 since January. At the same time, employers have added an average of nearly 150,000 jobs a month. That's barely enough to lower the unemployment rate, which has declined from 8.3 percent to 7.8 percent this year.