Fewer Americans are also receiving benefits. The number of recipients declined to 2.6 million, the lowest level since October 2007.
The decline in applications since the start of the year has been accompanied by solid job growth, despite an economy that struggled to grow during the winter.
The economy shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent during the first three months of 2014, primarily because freezing winter weather slowed factory output and consumer spending.
Still, the pace of hiring was steady and has accelerated this spring.
Employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 ½ years, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent from 6.7 percent. But that steep decline mostly occurred because fewer people than usual began looking for work. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching.
In the first four months of this year, employers have added an average of 214,000 jobs a month, up from 194,000 last year.
The government issues its May jobs report on Friday. Economists expect 220,000 jobs were created in May, according to a FactSet survey. But payroll processer ADP said Wednesday that private employers pulled back on hiring in May, adding just 179,000 jobs.
Improved hiring should help boost economic growth for the rest of 2014. More jobs mean more people have paychecks to spend.