Initial jobless claims fell to a two-month low of 450,000, confounding analyst expectations.
Jobless claims dipped 3,000 in the week ending Sept. 11, the Department of Labor said. The revised figure for the previous week was 453,000.
Analysts polled by Reuters forecast claims rising to 460,000.
"The labor market is slowly getting back on track," Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's Economy.com told Bloomberg News before the report. "Businesses are still cautious about hiring, but the strong recovery in profits is giving firms the cash flow they need to invest."
Still, at this slow rate of hiring, it will take years for the U.S. economy to recover the more than 8 million jobs lost since the financial crisis began.
The four-week moving average, a clearer measure of unemployment trends, fell 13,500 to 464,750. The revised average for the previous week was 478,250.