U.S. applications for unemployment aid fall by 6,000

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, bringing encouraging news for the job market.

About 361,000 people filed claims in the week ended Aug. 4, down 6,000 from the previous week, the Department of Labor said Thursday, August 9th.

Jobless claims are closely correlated with layoffs, so a drop is an encouraging sign that job cuts may be waning.

That said, the number can also be volatile from week to week.

Economists often prefer to look at a four-week moving average to smooth out the choppiness. That number had been falling since mid-June, but then rose slightly last week.

It will probably take several more weeks of declines before economists are convinced the job market improved significantly in August.

Meanwhile, 3.3 million people filed for their second week of unemployment benefits or more in the week ended July 28, the most recent data available.