First-time jobless applications plunge

Those filing for unemployment benefits fell by 26,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The four-week moving average, which is a better indicator of the job market's trend, also dropped by 4,500 to 374,000. The average had previously risen for six weeks.

The figure is finally back below the 375,000 that economists argue reflects a healthier job market and a hiring pace by employers that is fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate, which now sits at 8.1 percent. 

Unemployment has remained stuck above 8 percent since early 2009 and is a major hurdle for President Obama's reelection efforts. 

The first of the two final monthly jobs reports is due out Oct. 5. The last one hits only days before the election.