There were 346,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits, down 42,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reports.
Meanwhile, the "4-week moving average" of claims was 358,000, up by 3,000 from the previous week's 355,000. That measure smooths out some of the volatility in the numbers.
After recent reports that were disappointing, including last week's news that employers added only 88,000 jobs to their payrolls in March, Thursday's data on jobless claims were a positive switch.
Bloomberg News says the decline in claims was more than forecast and could be a sign that some things that tend to cause unusual swings in data — including holidays such as Easter — have worked their way through the numbers.
"The spike in claims was temporary," Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, tells Bloomberg. "Claims will continue to come down. Things are getting better."