WASHINGTON (AP) - Weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 363,000 last week, a level consistent with modest hiring.
The report comes just before Friday's October jobs data, the last broad snapshot of the economy before the presidential election Tuesday. The still-weak job market has been a top issue for voters during the campaign.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of claims, a less volatile measure, declined to 367,250. The average has been around that level for three months.
A department spokesman said Hurricane Sandy had no effect on the number of applicants. The report covered the week ending Oct. 27, before the storm reached shore.
Applications have fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 since January. During that time, employers have added an average of about 150,000 jobs a month. That's reduced the unemployment rate from 8.3 percent in January to 7.8 percent in September.