First-time unemployment claims dropped by 15,000 to 358,000 in the week ending Saturday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.
The four-week rolling average of first-time claims rose by 11,750 to 336,500 in part due to last week's jump of 66,000 new claims.
Jobless claims figures have been volatile of late for two reasons.
The first is the U.S. government shutdown that laid off about 800,000 federal workers.
That did not directly affect claims. The bill that brought workers back to their jobs on Thursday included provisions for the workers to receive back pay, so federal workers were ineligible for unemployment benefits, anyway.
But many companies cannot keep business going without fresh orders from the federal government. Defense contractors were among those announcing layoffs while the shutdown dragged on.
Secondly, computer problems have skewed the data of late. Several states, which collect the jobless claims figures, moved to a new software system in mid-September and some states have been unable to get data complied in time for the weekly report. That means the following week's report includes two weeks worth of data from some states.
CNNMoney reported in late September that California went to a new system over the Labor Day weekend and was hit with computer glitches that delayed unemployment checks for as many as 80,000 people. In addition, because of federal funding cutbacks, the state did not have the resources to fix the problems quickly.
In the current week, claims dropped less than expected. Economists had forecast a drop to 335,000 first-time claims.