The number of people applying for unemployment benefits ticked down last week after dropping sharply the previous week, evidence that hiring could pick up this month.
The Labor Department says weekly applications dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000. The previous week's figures were revised up slightly. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell 5,250 to 379,000.
Applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they stay consistently below 375,000, it suggests job growth is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
Applications are falling again after rising for most of April. The spike in applications coincided with weaker hiring in March and April, raising fears that the job market is sputtering.