WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 316,000, a sign that workers are in less danger of being laid off. The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average fell 7,500 to 331,750. Both the weekly jobless claims and the average have returned to pre-recession levels. Weekly unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. They have fallen in six of the past seven weeks. As layoffs have dwindled, hiring has picked up. Employers added 204,000 jobs last month, indicating that companies were undeterred by the 16-day government shutdown. Private businesses added 212,000 new positions, the most since February. The economy has added an average of 202,000 jobs a month from August through October, up from 146,000 in May through July.