Initial claims fell to 355,000, the department said. The four-week rolling average rose by 3,250 to 370,500.
Since the recession ended in June 2009, there have been only two other weeks in which first-time claims were this low -- once in July and once in October of this year.
The advance number of unadjusted actual first-time jobless benefits claims under state programs totaled 355,406 for the week, an increase of 15,489 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.
There were 402,532 initial benefits claims in the comparable week in 2011, the department's Employment and Training Administration said.