(NBC News) - The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to its lowest level in nine weeks.
The Labor Department reports unemployment benefits fell by 26,000 last week to a seasonably adjusted 359,000.
Analysts say it's a hopeful sign for the job market.
The four week average declined 4,500 to 374,000.
Other data shows layoffs have fallen to the lowest level in 10 years. But hiring has not picked up enough to quickly lower the unemployment rate.
Economists say when weekly unemployment applications consistently fall below 375,000, that's an indicator that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
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