The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance declined last week as Omicron infections subsided and employers tried to hold on to their workers. In the week-ending January 29, unemployment claims declined for a second week in a row to a seasonally adjusted 238,000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was a decrease of 23,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 261,000 claims. The most recent filings were slightly below the roughly 245,000 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 nearly 8,000 last week to 255,000, the fifth straight week of increases. 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 amid a tight labor market. Thus far during the pandemic, nearly 93.8 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.