WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid barely rose last week and the average level of applications in the past month fell to a 42-year low.

WASHINGTON (AP) The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid barely rose last week and the average level of applications in the past month fell to a 42-year low.

The Labor Department says weekly applications rose just 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 260,000, a very low level historically that suggests employers are cutting few jobs.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped 4,000 to 259,250. That is the fewest since December 1973.

The figures indicate that businesses remain confident enough in the economy to hold onto their workers. Growth slowed sharply in the July-September quarter but that has not spurred widespread layoffs, though some large companies have announced job cuts.

Hiring is typically healthy when applications are low. Many economists expect job gains to rebound after slowing in August and September.