Feb 2, 2012 9:31 AM by Sharlee Barriere
The number of people seeking unemployment aid fell last week, a sign that companies are cutting fewer jobs and likely stepping up hiring.
The Labor Department says weekly unemployment applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped for the third straight week to 375,750.
That's the second-lowest level for the four-week average since June 2008. When applications stay consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The report comes a day before the government will issue its jobs report for January. Economists forecast that the report will show that employers added 155,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate remained at 8.5 percent.