The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits is falling, a new signal that the country's labor market is improving.
The U.S. government said Wednesday that 316,000 jobless workers made initial claims for unemployment compensation last week, 10,000 fewer than the week before and the lowest figure in two months.
Claims for jobless benefits in the world's largest economy have now fallen in six of the last seven weeks, an indication that employers are laying off fewer workers.
Policy makers at the country's central bank, the Federal Reserve, are also watching whether hiring has picked up before deciding whether to cut back on their direct support of the economy. Employers have added an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month since August, but the U.S. jobless rate is still elevated, pegged at 7.3 percent in October.
The Fed has been buying $85 billion of securities a month for more than a year. It is an effort to pump more money into the economy, keep interest rates low and boost job growth, as the U.S. continues to recover from its steepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Central bank officials are set to meet again in mid-December. The Fed says it wants to begin to trim the asset purchases "in coming months," but has set no timeline.