FILE - A case worker offers advice to job seekers at a San Francisco employment center.
FILE - A case worker offers advice to job seekers at a San Francisco employment center.

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment assistance last week, the latest favorable sign from the growing U.S. economy.

The government says as the calendar turned into the new year, 294,000 workers made first-time claims for jobless benefits, 4,000 fewer than the week before.

The applications for unemployment compensation have stayed steady at below 300,000 a week since September, an indication employers are laying off fewer workers and hiring more.

After uneven U.S. economic advances during much of his six years in office, President Barack Obama has been touting the recent robust growth of the world's largest economy.

On Wednesday, he told a group of auto workers in the country's industrial heartland that he wants workers throughout the country to personally sense that better fortunes are in the offing.

"One of my New Year's resolutions is to make sure that more Americans, in Wayne, more Americans in Michigan, more Americans all across this great country, that everybody feels like they're coming back."

The U.S. economy advanced by five percent in the July-to-September period, a marked contrast to slowing growth in China, a recession in Japan, and a near stagnant economy in Europe's 18-nation euro currency bloc.

On Friday, the U.S. government is set to release employment numbers for December. Economists are projecting that businesses added about 240,000 more jobs last month, pushing the total for all of last year to nearly three million. That would be the most since 1999.

At the same time, analysts say the unemployment rate could drop another notch, from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent, which would be the lowest since June 2008.

Some information for this report comes from AP.