Even as the delta variant of COVID-19 continued to spread, the number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims hit a new pandemic-era low last week. Seasonally adjusted initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell to 310,000 in the week-ending September 4, according to the most recent data release from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was a decline of 35,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 345,000. The latest figures were the first since federal unemployment benefits expired and mark the second straight weekly decline as well as significant progress towards the pre-pandemic norm. In addition, the recent claim volume fell below economists’ projections of 335,000. Weekly applications for initial unemployment benefits have been generally trending down since the start of 2021, after peaking at 904,000 claims in January. That peak, however, was well below 2020’s high point, when weekly unemployment claims reached more than 6.1 million in early April. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. consistently logged weekly claims below 220,000. Since the onset of the pandemic, nearly 88.3 million Americans have filed initial unemployment insurance claims.