Jobless claims fell by 21,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 323,000 last week, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday. Most economists had expected claims to fall to 334,000.

The drop represents the largest in nearly three months -- although the decline may have been influenced by the Veteran's Day holiday. Per MarketWatch:

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits is considered a good barometer of how many layoffs are occurring in the economy, but the report is less useful as a gauge of hiring intentions. Claims have now fallen back to end-of-summer levels after spiking in October, though it’s unclear whether the decline reflects seasonal patterns or an actual uptick in the labor market.

  The Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday took place during the week, and sometimes holidays can cause claims to decline by more than they usually do. If that’s the case, claims would normally rise in the following week.

The drop in claims helped stocks jump ahead in early trading Thursday, with the HW 30 index of companies comprising the U.S. housing economy jumping more than 1 percent to 1059.20.