WASHINGTON (AP) - New claims for unemployment benefits dipped for the fourth straight week, a sign the job market is improving at a glacial pace.
The Labor Department says first-time claims dropped last week by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 444,000. That's just above analysts' estimates, according to Thomson Reuters. The previous week's total was revised up to 448,000.
The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, registered a steeper decline, falling by 9,000 to 450,500. That's close to the average's lowest level this year, reached in late March.
Still, claims aren't dropping as quickly as many economists would like. After falling steadily last year from a peak of 651,000, they have leveled out around 450,000 this year.
The number of people continuing to receive benefits, meanwhile, rose by 12,000 to 4.6 million.