(CN) – The Labor Department said Thursday that 23,000 fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, indicating a low level of layoffs and a strong job market.
Applications for jobless benefits dropped to 216,000 for the week ending Feb. 16, down from 239,000 the week before, according to the government’s report.
The more stable four-week average, which is considered a better measure of labor market trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, nudged up 4,000 to 235,750.
Unemployment applications are a proxy for layoffs, as those benefits are only for people who lose a job through no fault of their own. Any figure below 300,000 indicates that hiring is healthy and employers are confident enough in future demand to keep their workers.
Some economists have predicted a financial slowdown this year. A series of government reports released last week highlighted a two-month drop in U.S. wholesale prices, plummeting holiday retail sales in December and low tax refunds.
However, the job market remains strong, as U.S. employers in December posted the most open jobs in the nearly two decades that the number has been tracked.