First-time claims dropped by 29,000 to 343,000, the lowest level since early October and near a multiyear low.
Unemployment is currently at 7.7 percent.
Stocks turned lower, anyway. Among blue-chip stocks, Merck & Co. shares fell 2.34 percent while Boeing shares dropped 1.1 percent. Microsoft Corp. gave up 0.79 percent while Intel slipped 0.65 percent.
By close of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average gave up 74.73 points or 0.56 percent to 13,170.72.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq index shed 21.65 points or 0.72 percent to 2,992.16. The Standard and Poor's 500 lost 9.03 points or 0.63 percent to 1,419.45.
On the New York Stock Exchange, 914 stocks advanced and 2,128 declined on a volume of 3.3 billion shares traded.
The 10-year treasury note fell 9/32 to yield 1.735 percent.
The euro rose to $1.3075 from Wednesday's $1.3074. The dollar rose to 83.66 yen from 83.27 yen.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1.68 percent, 161.27 points, to 9,742.73.
Britain's FTSE 100 index dropped 0.27 percent, 16.24 points, to 5,929.61.
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