WASHINGTON (AP) — Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 363,000 last week, a level consistent with modest hiring.

The report comes just before Friday's October jobs data, the last broad snapshot of the economy before the presidential election Tuesday. The still-weak job market has been a top issue for voters.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications for unemployment aid, a less volatile gauge, declined to 367,250. The average has been around that level for three months.

A department spokesman said Superstorm Sandy had no direct effect on the number of applicants. The report covered the week ending Oct. 27, before the storm reached shore.

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