Claims for Unemployment Aid Dip But Remain High

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER | October 27, 2011 | 8:40 AM EDT

Job seekers crowd around tables to get information and drop off resumes during a job fair in Boston Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. Fewer people likely applied for unemployment benefits last week, suggesting the job market may be improving slightly. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Washington (AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dipped slightly last week, though not by enough to suggest that hiring is picking up.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits declined 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 402,000. That's the fourth drop in six weeks.

Still, the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 405,500. The average had fallen to a six-month low two weeks ago.

Despite the recent declines, applications are stuck above 400,000, where they have been for all but two weeks since March. Applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven't been below that level since February.

Meanwhile, the number of laid-off workers receiving benefits dropped to 3.65 million, the lowest level in three years.