First-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits declined slightly last week but were essentially in line with the number of filings over the previous two weeks, indicating that layoffs may have hit a plateau. Still, jobless claims edged closer to pre-pandemic levels of around 220,000 a week. Unemployment claims have dropped for the seventh consecutive week, remaining below 300,000 filings for six consecutive weeks. Initial claims, a proxy for layoffs, totaled a seasonally adjusted 268,000 in the week-ending November 13, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That was a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 269,000 and the lowest level for initial claims since the week-ending March 14, 2020, when there were 256,000 claims filed. However, the recent figure was slightly higher than the 260,000 initial claims economists were projecting. Although hitting a new low, the most recent level of new claims remains above the average weekly pace prior to the pandemic in 2019, when initial weekly claims averaged 218,000. Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 91.3 million initial unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the U.S.