Published: Aug 04, 2011 2:51 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 04, 2011 1:45 PM EDT

 WASHINGTON (AP) The number of people seeking unemployment benefits dipped last week, a sign the job market may be improving slowly.
 
The Labor Department says that applications for unemployment benefits edged down 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 400,000. That's the lowest level in four months. The previous week's figure was revised upward from 398,000 to 401,000.
 
The four-week average, a less volatile figure, dropped for the fifth straight week to 407,750. That suggests there is a downward trend in applications.
 
Applications have been at or above 400,000 for 17 weeks. They fell in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth. They stayed below 400,000 for two months, but applications then surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have declined slowly since then.