Unemployment benefit filings down last week in hopeful sign

      (AP) The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell sharply last week to 346,000, reversing big gains over the previous two weeks. The decline brings applications back to a level that signals stronger hiring, an encouraging sign after March's weak month of job growth.

      Here are the states with the biggest changes in unemployment aid applications. The state data are for the week ended March 30, one week behind the national figures.

      States with the biggest increases:

      Pennsylvania: Up 3,015, due to layoffs in the transportation, construction, entertainment and health care industries

      New Jersey: Up 2,409, due to layoffs in education, transportation, and hotels and restaurants

      Illinois: Up 2,149, due to layoffs in construction, manufacturing and transportation

      Kentucky: Up 1,718, no reason given

      Wisconsin: Up 1,583, no reason given

      States with the biggest decreases:

      Texas: Down 3,489, no reason given

      California: Down 2,661, no reason given

      North Carolina: Down 1,601, due to fewer layoffs in the food service and business service industries