The Dow closed above 16,000 for the first time after the Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to near where they were before the recession. The Dow has been on fire, fueled by solid corporate profits, a strengthening economy, and the Fed’s easy-money policies. Since Jan. 1, the blue-chip index is up 22%. If it holds onto the gains, the Dow will have its best year since ’03. It topped 14,000 in February and 15,000 in May. In a sign that investors are less risk-averse, small-company stocks rose at a much faster pace than the rest of the market Thursday; the Russell 2000 jumped 1.8%.