Weekly jobless claims are expected to dip in the latest week, setting a marginal new pandemic-era low as the labor market slowly recovers to levels before COVID-19 walloped the global economy.

The Labor Department releases its jobless claims report on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main metrics expected from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:

  • Initial unemployment claims, week ended October 23: 289,000 expected vs. 290,000 during the prior week

  • Continuing claims, week ended October 16: 2.420 million expected vs. 2.481 million during the prior week

If the downward trend holds, the latest jobless claims data are set to reflect the smallest number of new filings since March 2020. The four-week moving average for jobless claims last week dropped to 319,750, but that is still higher than the 225,500 in place on March 14, 2020 — just before the nationwide economic shutdown forced millions into unemployment.

Last week’s jobless claims also shows that the US is edging closer to its pre-pandemic normal when it comes to the labor market, though there is still some distance to cover. Weekly claims in October 2020 peaked at a rate of over 700,000, while in the same month in 2019, initial filings averaged just over 210,000.

The steady move lower in first-time filers so far this year has coincided with a jump in demand for labor, the expiration of enhanced jobless benefits, and elevated levels of quits by employees.

A record of 4.3 million people have walked off their job in August, based on the Labor Department’s most recent data. Although the unemployment rate has dropped, job openings overall were at a record high of more than 10.4 million as of the end of the summer.

“As we prepare to close the books on October, the good news is that the job market isn’t nearly as scary as the early days of the pandemic. More employers are adding workers than shedding them, and a good number of firms and/or sectors indicate that they’re experiencing shortages of skilled labor, based on the survey just released by the National Association for Business Economics,” Mark Hamrick, Bankrate senior economic analyst, wrote in an email on Tuesday.

“There are many complicated storylines, given the huge number of job openings and record numbers of people quitting their jobs, some with the hope of finding better working conditions and/or pay, others burned out or fed up,” he added.

Continuing jobless claims also fell to their lowest level since the COVID-19 crisis began, dropping to 2.481 million as of early October. Those numbers run a week behind the headline weekly total.

The insured unemployment rate, or the ratio of people on unemployment benefits divided by the overall force, dipped by 0.1 percentage points to reach 1.8% as for the week ended Oct.9.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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