That's made the unemployment applications data less reliable for predicting job growth than in past recoveries.
Historically, falling applications have pointed to a pickup in hiring and stronger economic growth.
JPMorgan economists point to the October-December quarter in 2004, just three years after the 2001 recession ended. Unemployment applications were down to 329,000, in line with the current level reported over the past four weeks. Yet the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent and the economy grew at 3.4 percent annual rate.
Applications were also at 329,000 in the fourth quarter of 1994, three years after the 1991 recession ended. The unemployment rate was 5.6 percent then, and the economy grew at a 4.6 percent annual rate.
"The ongoing drop in . . . claims has not shown its normal relationship to job growth," Greenhaus said.
Still, hiring has been steady this year. Employers added 169,000 jobs in August, although job growth in June and July were weaker than first estimated. The economy has added an average of 180,000 jobs a month this year.
About 4.3 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ended Aug. 24, the latest figures available. That's about 125,000 fewer than the previous week. A year ago, nearly 5.4 million people were receiving benefits.