The U.S. economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in July, August, and September, which is a bit faster than the previous quarter.

Thursday's report from the Commerce Department showed stronger growth than most economists had predicted.

The data covers a period before the recent government shutdown, and does not reflect the expected negative economic impact of that incident.

Percent Change in U.S. GDP Since January 2010
Percent Change in U.S. GDP Since January 2010

A separate report showed fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week. Jobless claims fell by 9,000 to a nationwide total of 336,000.

Government experts will publish the closely-watched monthly unemployment report Friday. Economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial news service predict the economy will have a net gain of about 120,000 jobs in October, which is less than the previous month. They also say they expect the unemployment rate for October to increase slightly and hit 7.3 percent.