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WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, a low level that signals employers are cutting few jobs and hiring is likely to remain strong.

The Labor Department says the four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped to 299,750. That's just 6,000 higher than four weeks ago, when the average fell to the lowest level in more than eight years.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When employers hold onto their workers, it suggests they are more confident in the economy and could step up hiring.

The applications data is the latest sign that the job market is steadily healing. Average job gains since February have been the best in eight years.

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