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Job Layoffs

Applications for US unemployment benefits fall to 260,000

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid dropped sharply last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday, the latest sign that businesses are cutting few jobs.

THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for jobless benefits dropped 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 260,000. That is not far from the four-decade low of 255,000 reached in July. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was unchanged at 271,000.

The number of people that are receiving benefits rose 34,000 to 2.2 million.

THE TAKEAWAY: Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so last week's drop is a sign that companies are cutting few jobs.

KEY DRIVERS: Steady job gains over the past...