WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- The number of U.S. people initially applying for unemployment aid last week dropped to the lowest level since late February after edging high a week earlier, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
The Labor Department said the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits was 381,000 in the week ending December 3, a sharp decrease of 23,000 from the previous week's revised figure.
Fewer than 425,000 people applying for aid is consistent with modest job growth, but the number of jobless claims will have to fall to 375,000 or below to signal a sustained drop in the unemployment rate.
The fresh figure is the lowest point in nine months, signaling the U.S. labor market is improving.
Meanwhile, the four-week moving average, which more closely watched claims figure, continued to dip to 393,250, the lowest level since early April.
The advance figure for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending November 26 was 3.583 million, a decrease of 174,000 from one week earlier.
The U.S. unemployment rate edged down to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent in the previous month. But the decline was partly due to the fact that more people gave up looking for job.
While there is more evidence for an improving labor market, no one believes it will turn to normal level in the short term due to weak economic growth.
The weekly figures of jobless benefits application reflect the level of layoffs and indicate real-time condition of American job market.