The four-week moving average, a better indicator of the job market's trend, increased by 3,250 to 375,000.
Odds are that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will announce later Thursday that the central bank will take action to help boost economy growth as the labor market grinds out inadequate numbers.
The weekly claims report follows a disappointed August jobs report released last week that showed only 96,000 jobs were created last month, with the manufacturing sector losing 15,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent but mostly because potential workers stopped their search for jobs.
Unemployment has remained stuck above 8 percent since early 2009 and is a major hurdle to President Obama's reelection efforts.
No president since Franklin Roosevelt has been reelected with a jobless rate above 8 percent.
Still, despite the labor market's struggles, President Obama's poll numbers have suffered as might be expected, even as the presidential campaign focuses on the economy, The Hill's Ian Swanson reported Wednesday.