The number of first-time filers for unemployment benefits fell last week, dipping below 400,000 for the first time in four months.
There were 395,000 initial unemployment claims filed in the week ended Aug. 6, the Labor Department said Thursday, down 7,000 from an upwardly revised 402,000 the prior week.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting jobless claims to rise to 409,000.
The figure had stayed above 400,000 since early April.
Economists often say initial claims need to fall below that level before job growth is strong enough to put a dent in the unemployment rate.