The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance declined during the third week of 2022, following three weeks of increases that were likely due to the surge in Omicron cases. In the week-ending January 22, unemployment claims declined for the first time in four weeks to a seasonally adjusted 260,000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was a decrease of 30,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 290,000 claims. The most recent filings were slightly below the roughly 265,000 initial claims economists were projecting but were still above the average of 218,000 claims filed per week in the year leading up to the pandemic. The four-week average, which smooths out changes from week to week, increased by 15,000 last week to 247,000, above pre-pandemic levels. Initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, peaked at more than 6.1 million at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and have been generally trending down since then. Late last year, jobless claims fell below pre-pandemic levels. Thus far during the pandemic, nearly 93.5 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.