UPDATE: Fewer seek unemployment aid, matching 4-year low - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Fewer seek unemployment aid, matching 4-year low

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week, adding to signs that the job market is strengthening.

The Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 351,000. That matches a four-year low reached last month. The four-week average was unchanged at 355,750.

Unemployment applications have leveled off in the past few weeks after falling for six months. The average has declined 14 percent since October.

Experts say unemployment benefit applications drop consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- The Labor Department is expected to release their official unemployment numbers on Thursday. But, ahead of those numbers, many economists believe 4,000 fewer people applied for unemployment last week.

The experts, surveyed by FactSet, predict that the seasonally adjusted number of new applications was 358,000. Economists say the decline in weekly unemployment claims gives more evidence the labor market is improving.

Applications have fallen 14 percent since October and last week were slightly above a four-year low.

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