A day ahead of the release of the more closely watched monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended May 29th.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 385,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 405,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 395,000 from the 406,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the slightly bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims once again fell to their lowest level since hitting 256,000 in the week ended March 14, 2020.

The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also fell to a pandemic-era low of 428,000, a decrease of 30,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 458,500.

Meanwhile, the report said continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, increased by 169,000 to 3.771 million in the week ended May 22nd.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims also rose to 3,687,750, an increase of 22,750 from the previous week’s revised average of 3,665,000.

“The decline in new claims – down by nearly half since early April – shows that layoffs are receding, while the more stubborn level of continuing claims reminds us that a full recovery of jobs lost during the pandemic will be a more uneven process,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead Economist at Oxford Economics.

On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched report on the employment situation in the month of May.

Economists currently expect the report to show employment jumped by 664,000 jobs in May after climbing by 266,000 jobs in April. The unemployment rate is also expected to dip to 5.9 percent from 6.1 percent.

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