The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, signaling fewer layoffs and steady job growth.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,750 to 349,000. A labor spokesman said there was no indication that snow and freezing weather around much of the country caused the drop in applications.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They appear to have stabilized near pre-recession levels after a period of volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. That suggests recent job gains will continue.
Ford Motor Co. is raising the quarterly dividend it pays shareholders for the second time since restoring it in 2012.
The second-largest U.S. automaker said Thursday its board declared a first-quarter dividend of 12.5 cents per share, a 25 percent increase from the previous dividend of 10 cents. The new dividend is payable on March 3 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Jan. 31.
Ford stopped paying a dividend in 2006, a year in which it lost $12.6 billion. After a restructuring, it returned to profitability in 2009. Ford restored its quarterly dividend at 5 cents per share in the first quarter of 2012 and doubled that dividend a year later.