Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits

May 19, 2011 - 7:43 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply for the second straight week, suggesting the job market is slowly recovering.

The Labor Department says applications for benefits dropped 29,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 409,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 439,000, the sixth straight increase.

The declines come after applications spiked last month, largely the result of temporary factors. The department reported two weeks ago that applications had surged to an eight-month high of 474,000.

That was nearly 100,000 above February's three-year low of 375,000 — a level typically consistent with sustainable job growth. Weekly applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.