Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 381,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week's claims data was revised up to 366,000 from the previously reported 364,000.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 375,000. A Labor Department official said that because of a public holiday on Monday, claims from seven states - including California and Virginia - had been estimated.
The four-week moving average - a better measure of trends - fell 5,750 to 375,000, the lowest level since June 2008.
"We've seen a pretty strong trend in claims recently. This finally shows they're correcting to a sustainable downtrend," said Gennadiy Goldberg, interest-rate strategist at 4CAST in New York.
U.S. stock index futures added modestly to gains, while prices for government debt were little changed. The dollar was up against the euro.
While the rise in initial claims last week interrupted three straight weeks of declines, the healing in the jobs market remains intact.