Applications for unemployment aid drop below 400K

July 28, 2011 - 8:43 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level since early April, a sign the job market may be healing after a recent slump.

The Labor Department says weekly applications fell 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 398,000. That's the first time applications have fallen below 400,000 in 16 weeks.

Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth. But they then surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have declined only slowly since then.

Some of the drop may reflect special factors. Applications rose earlier this month because of temporary layoffs in the auto and other manufacturing industries, which are ending. Many auto companies close their factories in early July to prepare for new models.