The U.S. government reported on Thursday record numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits as the total jobless count exceeded 6 million for the first time – again dimming hopes of seeing the end to the recession.

The labor market is expected to remain weak for the majority of this year as companies are reluctant to hire new workers until signs of economic recovery are clearly evident.

Despite the gloomy news, economists found some silver linings. For the second straight week the number of people filing new benefits claims has dropped more than expected.

The Labor Department said Thursday that its tally of initial unemployment claims dropped to a seasonally adjusted 610,000 from a revised 663,000 the previous week. This amount is lower than the analyst expected amount of 655,000.

While the numbers are declining, they however remain much higher than a year ago when claims stood at 369,000.