Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, partly reversing a sharp jump in applications the previous week.
The Labor Department says the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 403,000 in the week ending April 16. The decline comes after applications rose 31,000 a week earlier.
Applications near 375,000 are consistent with sustainable job growth. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the second straight week to 399,000. That's about 10,000 higher than it was a month ago.
The average has fallen about 7 percent since late January, but applications have plateaued in recent weeks. Most economists expect applications to continue declining as the economy improves. Businesses have stepped up hiring in recent months.
This program aired on April 21, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.