WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 last week, bringing applications to pre-recession levels.
The Labor Department said today that the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,250 to 348,250. The average was elevated by the 16-day partial government shutdown and backlogs in California that occurred because of computer upgrades.
Weekly applications have fallen for four straight weeks.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The decline suggests companies are cutting very…