The number of jobless claims filed for the week ending Oct. 6 fell by 30,000 filings to a total of 339,000 applications, the Labor Department said Thursday.
That is down from the previous week's revised figure of 369,000 filings and follows last week's news that unemployment edged down to 7.8% after remaining in the 8.1%-zone for months.
The total number of people claiming benefits reached 5.044 million, a decline of 43,970 people from a week earlier.
Analysts with Econoday call it the "best reading of the recovery," but warn the sudden drop may be tied to seasonal adjustments and will have to remain for several weeks to suggest true improvement in employment.
"The four-week average is down 11,500 to 364,000 and is now trending more than 10,000 below the month-ago comparison in what points to improvement for both payroll growth and the unemployment rate," Econoday said.