Initial benefits claims were expected to ease back significantly, as the previous week's upward spike of 78,000 was attributed to a backlog of claims due to Hurricane Sandy and the destruction that disrupted some jobs.
The hurricane pushed claims to a number unseen since the week of April 30, 2011.
For the current week, there were 410,000 first-time claims filed. The four-week rolling average for the week rose by 9,500 to 396,250.
First-time unemployment benefits claims under state programs totaled 397,671 for the week, a decrease of 80,872 from the previous week, the Labor Department said.
There were 440,157 initial benefits claims in the comparable week in 2011, the department's Employment and Training Administration said.