Fewer Americans are submitting first-time claims for unemployment benefits.
The U.S. Labor Department reports the number of initial jobless claims fell by 11,000 last week to 445,000. That's the lowest it has been in three months.
Thursday's report also shows the number of Americans continuing to get unemployment insurance fell to less than 4.5 million, the lowest it has been since the end of June.
Other reports suggest the job crunch may be starting to ease.
A separate Labor Department report found the number of job openings in the U.S. jumped almost 2 percent in August. Also, online jobs recruiting firm Monster Worldwide said job offers on the Internet increased slightly from August to September.
The data comes one day before the U.S. Labor Department releases its comprehensive monthly report on unemployment for September. Experts surveyed by news agencies predict the U.S. unemployment rate will have increased slightly, to 9.7 percent, showing the U.S. recovery is bumpy and uneven.
Two reports on the U.S. jobs market released Wednesday, however, were less optimistic.
ADP Employer Services said companies eliminated 39,000 jobs in September, basing its findings on payroll data from across the country. Jobs placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas said the number of announced job cuts jumped 7 percent from August to September.
Despite the uneven data on job prospects, U.S. retailers are predicting stronger sales in the months to come.
A number of major U.S. retail chains reported stronger September sales Thursday, saying the data suggests consumers will increase their purchases during the upcoming holiday gift-buying season.
Many businesses depend on sales in the weeks preceding the Christmas holiday (December 25) to earn a profit for the year, and some of the top industry groups are forecasting sales gains of two to 3.5 percent.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.