A weekly Labor Department report showed that initial unemployment claims dropped to 310,000, a pandemic low that has been touted as proof of the U.S. economy’s gradual recovery.

First-time filings for unemployment beat forecasts from Dow Jones that projected the number to be around 335,000 for the week that ended on Sept. 4. This week's report followed a positive jobs report from last week that showed 340,000 first-time filings, also beating expectations.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment filings hit a peak of 6.149 million in April 2020.

The report does not suggest the economy has been restored to pre-pandemic levels. A number within the range of 200,000 to 250,000 first-time filings would be an indication that the economy has returned to where it was before the COVID crisis hit the U.S.

These numbers arrive at a time when employers are complaining about being unable to find workers to fill vacancies and a poorer-than-anticipated jobs report for August. Last week, Labor Department data showed the economy added 235,000 positions compared to a forecast of 720,000.

The jobs report can be chalked up to lingering concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant that skyrocketed case numbers across the U.S. Workers’ sense of their bargaining power may have strengthened during the pandemic, which may make them less willing to take just any job.

Continuing claims for Americans who are receiving unemployment insurance totaled 2.78 million. This represented a drop of 22,000 claims from last week's Labor Department report, but it exceeded a forecasted estimate of 2.73 million. The moving average for continued unemployment claims dropped to 2.84 million, according to the Labor Department. 

Federal unemployment benefits ended on Labor Day, affecting by one estimate 7.5 million Americans and costing 2.1 million their $300 weekly payments. Several states, led by Republicans, cut unemployment benefits earlier in a bid to boost job growth in their states.