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Applications for US unemployment aid remain at 43-year low

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits stayed at a 43-year low last week in the latest sign that layoffs are scarce.

The Labor Department says unemployment benefit applications were unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 246,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 3,500 to 249,250.

Both figures were at their lowest levels since November 1973.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the figures indicate that companies are cutting few jobs. With the unemployment rate down to 5 per cent from 10 per cent in October 2009, some businesses say they are having trouble finding qualified workers. That suggests they are less likely to lay anyone off.

Hiring has been solid this year, though slower than in the two previous years.