The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell by 12,000 last week, a hopeful signal that the job market may be improving.
The Labor Department says applications declined to a seasonally adjusted 365,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up to 371,250.
Weekly applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it suggests that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The drop likely won't affect the August jobs report, set to be released Friday. The data for that report were compiled three weeks ago. But it could signal better hiring in September.
Economists forecast that employers added 135,000 jobs last month, below July's gain of 163,000. The unemployment rate is expected to remain 8.3 percent.