"Once the special factors are weeded out, and businesses carry on as best they can, we should continue to see moderate job growth," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.
California and Michigan continued to sift through backlogged claims held up by computer changes. Furloughed private-sector workers drove up applications by 15,000 two weeks ago. About 70,000 furloughed federal employees also sought benefits in the week ending Oct. 5, although those workers aren't included in the overall totals.
About 3.9 million Americans received benefits in the week ended Sept. 28, the latest data available. That's about 83,000 fewer than the previous week. A year ago, 5 million people were receiving aid.
The government opened for business on Thursday. Federal employees who receive back pay will likely have to reimburse the government if they claimed unemployment benefits during the two-week shutdown, although the law varies by state.
Before the government shutdown and California's backlog, applications fell to a six-year low three weeks ago, thought that figure was pushed lower by California's delays.
Falling applications for unemployment benefits are typically followed by more hiring. But so far, there haven't been many signs of that happening.
The shutdown has delayed a raft of government data, including September's employment report. And it will likely affect hiring and weigh on the economic growth in the October-December quarter.
Several economists have cut their forecasts for fourth-quarter growth to an annual rate of about 2 percent, half a percentage point lower than their previous estimates.