Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits

By the Associated Press | June 2, 2011 | 8:44 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, but applications remain stuck at high levels that signal weak job growth.

The Labor Department says the number of people seeking unemployment benefits dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 422,000. It was the third drop in four weeks. But the declines follow much bigger increases in April.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell for the second straight week to 425,500.

That's far above the 375,000 level that is consistent with robust job growth. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.

The economy has hit a soft patch after showing strength at the beginning of the year. Many economists expect May's jobs report will show hiring slowed last month. The report will be released on Friday.