There were 361,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, the Employment and Training Administration says. That's down 6,000 from the week before (that previous week's total was revised up by 2,000).
Claims have stayed in a range between 350,000 and 400,000 all year. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has also varied little: it's low this year has been 8.1 percent and the high has been 8.3 percent.
At best, economist Joel Naroff tells Bloomberg News, the labor market is "slowly but steadily improving." The Associated Press says claims are running at a level consistent with only "modest gains in hiring."