At 368,000, a drop of 20,000 initial claims, the four-week rolling average was pushed to 388,500, the first time that has shrunk below 400,000 since August 2008.
At that point, in the summer of 2008, the national unemployment rate was 5.7 percent. In January, the unemployment rate fell from 9.4 percent to 9 percent.
The Labor Department said the biggest increases in first-time jobless benefits claims for the week ending Feb. 19 were reported by Illinois with 530 additional claims, Oregon, which added 339 and Tennessee, which added 225.
For the week ending Feb. 19, the biggest decreases were reported by New York with a decline of 4,270, Pennsylvania with a decline of 3,842, and Wisconsin, where initial claims fell by 3,163.