In the week ending June 30, applications for unemployment insurance payments dropped by 14,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 388,000, to 374,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would fall to approximately 385,000 last week.
The four-week moving average, which normally provides a better indication of the underlying trend in labor markets than the weekly number of jobless claims, fell 1,500 to 385,750 for first-time benefit applicants.
The number of people filing for benefits after an initial week of aid climbed 4,000 to 3.31 million in the week ending June 23.
The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.
The four-week moving average for the week ended June 23 fell by 3,000 to 3.31 million.
Friday's employment report is expected to show employers added 90,000 employees to their payrolls in June, according to a Reuters survey, after a paltry 69,000 gain in May. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 8.2 percent in June.
Job gains are of great importance because they lead to income growth, and that supports consumer spending, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
Stock futures are mixed. The S&P 500 futures gained 0.05 percent, to 1,368.70, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 0.2 percent, to 12,841.