The numbers: Initial jobless claims fell by 35,000 to 310,000 in the week ending Sept. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday.  That’s the lowest level of claims since the pandemic struck in March 2020. The decline in the latest week was the largest since late June.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total 335,000.

Before the pandemic, initial jobless claims averaged about 220,000 a week.

Big picture: Claims have fallen fairly steadily since hitting 424,000 in mid-July. Despite some slowing of activity, layoffs are still limited. Economists say this is a sign businesses remain confident about the future.

This is the last full week in which people are eligible for special pandemic-related assistance. Economists will be watching closely to see if this eases some of the worker shortages seen in the job data.

There could be a rise in claims in coming weeks as a result of the massive flooding from Hurricane Ida.

Market reaction: Stocks


were set to open lower on Thursday on concern about tightening at the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank.

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