WASHINGTON (AP) - Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the job market may be improving slightly.
The Labor Department says weekly applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 409,000 last week, the first decline in three weeks.
A strike by Verizon workers drove applications higher during the previous two weeks. The strike ended last week and is no longer affecting applications.
Applications have fallen from an eight-month high of 478,000 in April. Still, they typically need to drop below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth. They haven't been at that level since February.
The drop suggests employers aren't stepping up layoffs amid renewed concerns about the economy's health. Still, a sharp reduction in growth has fueled fears that the economy could be on the verge of another recession.