WASHINGTON — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000 last week, bringing applications to pre-recession levels.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average dropped 9,250 to 348,250. The average was elevated by the 16-day partial government shutdown and backlogs in California that occurred because of computer upgrades. Weekly applications have fallen for four straight weeks.