The US Labor Department Thursday said first-time jobless benefits claims dropped by 41,000 in the week ending Saturday.
Initial benefits claims were expected to ease back significantly, as the previous week's bump of 78,000 was attributed to a backlog of claims due to Hurricane Sandy and the destruction that disrupted some jobs.
The hurricane pushed claims to a number unseen since the week of April 30, 2011.
For the current week, there were 410,000 first-time claims filed. The four-week rolling average for the week rose by 9,500 to 396,250.
First-time unemployment benefits claims under state programs totaled 397,671 for the week, an decrease of 80,872 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.
There were 440,157 initial benefits claims in the comparable week in 2011, the department's Employment and Training Administration said.