By Christopher S. Rubgaber
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people applying for unemployment benefits was mostly unchanged last week. A slight dip in applications suggests the job market isn't getting much better.
The Labor Department says applications ticked down 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 404,000.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined for the third straight week to 408,000. That's the lowest average in eight weeks.
Still, applications are higher than they would be in a healthy economy. They need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven't been below that level since February.
The report suggests that layoffs have declined in recent weeks. Applications are a barometer of layoffs. But other data show hiring hasn't picked up.
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