Initial unemployment claims barely moved last week, continuing to trend toward pre-pandemic levels but falling well short of expectations for lower numbers, the Department of Labor revealed Thursday. 

Reported jobless claims reached 268,000, a drop of only 1,000 from the previous week’s revised level. This closed in on the 256,000 jobless claims before the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the economy. However, the number failed to reach the projected mark of 260,000 for the second week in a row. 

Continuing unemployment claims fell to 3,184,657. The Labor Department measures these numbers for the week preceding those for initial unemployment claims.

These numbers arrive as policymakers are focused on the dangers of rising inflation and the continuing labor shortage. The latest Consumer Price Index released on Nov.  13 showed prices for goods, particularly food, rent and energy, rose as year-on-year inflation was 6.2%, the highest since November 1990. 

President Joe Biden has announced new partnerships at home and abroad to unwind the supply chain bottlenecks that have driven up prices.