What’s happening with mortgage rates?

According to the Associated Press, nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage declined to its lowest level since May 2013

Average long-term mortgage rates in the United States fell for the fourth consecutive week, a continuing boon for potential home buyers, and the number of people seeking unemployment benefits slipped below 300,000 last week, according to data released on Thursday.

The mortgage company Freddie Mac said the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage declined to 3.89 percent this week, from 3.97 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013.

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, the Labor Department reported. Applications spiked in the previous week for the first time in nearly three months. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 4,750 to 299,000 for last week.

Applications for benefits are a proxy for layoffs. As fewer people seek unemployment benefits, it suggests that employers are holding onto more workers and potentially looking to bolster their hiring.

Applications have been under 300,000 for 11 of the last 12 weeks, an unusually low level that suggests employers are anticipating stronger economic growth. The four-week average for jobless claims has plummeted 9 percent over the last 12 months.

Such sharp declines in applications are unlikely to continue, analysts said. But at sub-300,000 levels, they point to better job gains in the Labor Department’s employment report, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“The trend probably has now flattened off, but at an extraordinarily low level, consistent with very strong payroll numbers,” Mr. Shepherdson said.

The November jobs report scheduled to be released on Friday is expected to show gains of 225,000 last month, according to the data firm FactSet.

Mortgage rates are about a half-point lower than at the beginning of the year, when the benchmark 30-year rate stood at 4.53 percent. Rates have fallen in recent weeks in the face of slowdowns in Europe and China and the start of a recession in Japan.

Mortgage rates have been falling despite the recent end of the Federal Reserve’s monthly bond purchases, which were intended to keep long-term rates low.