By JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, as the figure stayed close to historic lows in a sign that the job market is healthy.
THE NUMBERS: The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for jobless aid fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 229,000 last week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to a 44-year low of 232,500.The four-week average was previously that low in April 1973, when the U.S. economy had a smaller population and fewer total workers.
The total number of people collecting benefits is also at a nearly 44 year-low. There were 1.88 million people receiving jobless aid, a 7.9 percent drop over the past year and the best reading since December 1973.
KEY DRIVERS: U.S. economic growth has accelerated in the past six months after a weak start to the year. The report suggests that employers are holding onto their workers and possibly seeking to add jobs.
Economists forecast that the Labor Department's report for October, to be released Friday, will show a robust gain of 308,000 jobs.
Parts of Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Puerto Rico are starting to rebuild from the damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. A private survey released Wednesday showed a surge of construction sector hiring in October.
Puerto Rico has also begun to process backlogged claims for unemployment benefits after facing disruptions due to the hurricanes, the government said.
THE TAKEAWAY: The weekly unemployment benefits report suggests that the economic recovery that began in the middle of 2009 is steaming ahead.
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