WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, signaling fewer layoffs and steady job growth.
The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,750 to 349,000.
A Labor spokesman said there was no indication that snow and freezing weather around much of the country caused the drop in applications.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They appear to have stabilized near pre-recession levels after a period of volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. That suggests recent job gains will continue.
Employers have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from August through November. That's helped lower the unemployment rate to a five-year low of 7 percent.
The government will release the December jobs report on Friday.