By Christopher S. Rugaber
WASHINGTON -- The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell further in the final week of 2011, a positive sign for hiring one day ahead of Friday's December employment report.
The Labor Department says weekly applications dropped 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 last week. It was the fourth drop in five weeks. The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, declined to 373,250, the lowest level since June 2008.