While layoffs have slowed significantly, that has not been matched with a rapid acceleration in hiring as domestic demand remains lukewarm.
The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 91,000 to 2.78 million in the week ended Nov. 16. That was the lowest level since January 2008.
The so-called continuing claims data covered the household survey week from which the November unemployment rate will be calculated. Continuing claims fell 74,000 between the October and November survey periods, suggesting some improvement in the jobless rate after it rose to 7.3 percent in October.
The insured unemployment rate fell to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent, the lowest since September.