WASHINGTON — Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, suggesting that the job market remains insulated from the turmoil abroad in Europe and China.

The Labor Department says applications for jobless aid fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 277,000. The less volatile 4-week average slipped 1,250 to 275,750.

Jobless claims at those levels point to a robust environment for hiring. Weekly figures below 300,000 — a level not seen in the past 10 months — tend to correspond with strong monthly job gains.

Applications for benefits are a proxy for layoffs, so the consistent lows for claims suggest that employers are holding onto staff and possibly looking to expand.

The report indicates that job growth should be healthy in the December jobs report being released by the government Friday.