The Labor Deparment announced on Thursday that 359,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week.
That was down 26,000 from the prior week, and much lower than the 375,000 initial jobless claims that economists had expected to see filed last week, Bloomberg noted.
While weekly jobless claims have been moving upward since July, the unexpected drop signaled to analysts that the employment market is not getting markedly worse.
Earlier this month, the government reported that private employers added just 96,000 jobs in August, down sharply from 141,000 jobs added in July, and less than the 125,000 hires that economists had forecast.
The employment rate edged lower last month, falling to 8.1% from 8.3% in July. However, that declined was mostly attributable to roughly 400,000 frustrated job-seekers giving up on their job hunts and leaving the workforce altogether.