It was the second consecutive week of marginal gains with 2,000 fewer claims filed in the previous week and 1,000 fewer in the week that ended Saturday.
The four-week rolling average for first-time claims came to 381,750, an increase of 6,250 from the previous week.
By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average added 113.90 points or 0.87 percent to 13,204.62. The tech-dominated Nasdaq composite index gained 20.98 points or 0.69 percent to 3,050.61. The Standard and Poor's 500 index gained 9.29 points or 0.67 percent to 1,399.98.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 2,059 stocks advanced and 969 declined on a volume of 3.7 billion shares traded.
The 10-year treasury note fell 1/32 to yield 1.944 percent.
The euro fell to $1.3192 from Wednesday's $1.3217. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 81 yen from Wednesday's 81.34 yen.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.01 percent, 0.82, to 9,561.83.
In London, the FTSE 100 index gained 0.52 percent, 29.83, to 5,748.72.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]