A woman browses job openings at a job fair in Los Angeles
Jobless claims have registered below the key 400,000 mark -- a level historically associated with an improving labor market – for twelve consecutive weeks. Reuters

The number of people seeking state unemployment benefits fell for the third straight week, government data showed on Thursday, signaling some hopeful progress in the labor market.

The Labor Department says new claims in the week ended Oct. 29 fell by 9,000 to 397,000, registering below 400,000 for the first time in five weeks. Economists polled by Reuters called for a drop to 400,000 from the previously reported 402,000, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Today's data showed the four-week moving average, considered a less volatile measure of labor market trends, fell 2,000 to 404,500.

Federal Reserve officials projected Wednesday that the jobless rate will remain above 8 percent well into 2013. Household spending accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and today's report suggested a limited progress in the dismal job market.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits after an initial week of aid dropped by 15,000 in the week ended Oct. 22 to 3.68 million.

The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

The total number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the week ended Oct. 15 was 6.78 million, up from 6.68 million in the prior week.

Contact Moran Zhang at m.zhang@IBTimes.com.