Unemployment-aid applications are down. (Thinkstock)

Yahoo Finance is reporting that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits dipped last week, a sign the job market may be improving slowly. The Labor Department says that applications for unemployment benefits edged down 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 400,000. That's the lowest level in four months. The previous week's figure was revised upward from 398,000 to 401,000.

The four-week average, a less volatile figure, dropped for the fifth straight week to 407,750. That suggests there is a downward trend in applications.

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Applications have been at or above 400,000 for 17 weeks. They fell in February to 375,000, a level that signals healthy job growth. They stayed below 400,000 for two months, but applications then surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have declined slowly since then.

The report comes a day before the government will release the July employment figures. Economists forecast that Friday's report will show that employers added a net total of 90,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 9.2 percent.

Clearly more jobs need to be added if the unemployment rate is going to change. The whole idea of the tax break was so that businesses would add jobs, and that has not happened in a way that is making a major difference in the unemployment numbers. We should be mindful that just because the number of unemployment aid applications has dropped does not mean that the chronic and protracted unemployment that is decimating our communities has also declined.

Read more at Yahoo Finance.

In other news: Whiz Kid Named HuffPost Associate Editor.