The number of initial unemployment claims in the U.S. fell for a second straight week to the lowest level since the start of the COVID pandemic.

In the latest data from the Department of Labor, first-time filings for unemployment benefits totaled 290,000 for the week ending Oct. 16, down 3,000 from the previous week’s tally of 293,000. A forecast projected the number to be closer to 300,000.  

The data show the economy may be adjusting to the end of federal unemployment benefits on Labor Day as the weeks after their termination saw a precipitous rise in initial claims. It is evidence that the U.S. economy is slowly walking down the road to recovery, despite a deeply disappointing jobs report for September.

Continuing unemployment claims fell to their lowest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Labor Department measures these numbers for the week preceding those for initial unemployment claims, and it found 3,279,036 are still receiving benefits. This is a decrease of 369,992 from the previous week, and a far cry from the 23,755,845 in the comparable week in 2020.

These numbers arrive as policymakers begin to become more focused on the dangers from rising inflation. The latest Consumer Price Index showed prices for goods, particularly food, rent and energy, rose as year-on-year inflation was 5.4%, the highest since January 1991. 

The Federal Reserve, however, appeared unphased by the poor September jobs numbers as it inches closer to a tapering of its $120 billion per month asset purchase program that began during the pandemic. 

Chairman Jerome Powell and other Fed officials maintain their stance that inflation is likely transitory and will ease once global supply chain bottlenecks are reduced.