Economists say the market is healthier when applications fall below 375,000, where they have been for most of this year.
In other positive economic news, retail sales rose more than expected, the Commerce Department reported.
Despite economic headwinds that included tax increases at the start of the year, consumers boosted retail sales by 0.6 percent in May.
An continuing improving job market can only help bolster that spending.
In a separate report on Wednesday, the nation's top executives said they are optimistic that sales and hiring will improve through the final six months of the year — another good sign as the economy battles through the sequester, which is expected to weigh on growth through the summer.