Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, a sign of solid job security and growing confidence among employers.
The U.S. Labor Department says weekly unemployment benefits applications dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 289,000. That is the lowest level since late October.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined 750 to 298,750.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The average has fallen nearly 13 percent in the past year, evidence the job market is improving. Companies are cutting fewer jobs as the economy expands and hiring has picked up.
In the first 11 months of this year, employers have added 2.65 million jobs. That already makes 2014 the best year for hiring since 1999.