​New jobless claims show a healthy labor market

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid was unchanged last week, a sign that most businesses remain reluctant to cut jobs.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless benefits stayed at a seasonally adjusted 276,000, the same as the previous week. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 5,000 to 267,750.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Just three weeks ago, the average dropped to its lowest level since December 1973. That suggests employers are confident the U.S. economy will continue to expand and see little reason to let go of their staffs.

The economy stumbled in the July-September quarter under the weight of slowing overseas growth and a strong dollar. But Americans have continued to spend at a healthy pace, supporting a pickup in hiring last month.