Job openings reached a record high this summer but eased somewhat in August, while the number of out-of-work job seekers declined in September.


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Unemployment claims are holding near the lowest levels since early 2020, as employers cling to workers in a competitive labor market.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimate jobless claims fell to 318,000 last week from 326,000 a week earlier. Claims, a proxy for layoffs, remain near their lowest levels since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset. Initial claims reached a pandemic low of 312,000 in the week ended Sept. 4.

The Labor Department will release the latest numbers at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday.

Layoffs are easing from last year’s high levels as companies hold on to workers they have and attempt to fill positions amid strong demand. Job openings reached a record high this summer, though eased some in August, while the number of out-of-work job seekers declined in September.

“Employers are trying to figure out how to attract job seekers, and it’s challenging,” said

AnnElizabeth Konkel,

an economist at job site Indeed.

Americans are quitting their jobs at historically high rates, a sign of worker confidence in the job market. About 4.3 million employees quit their jobs in August, the highest for records tracing back to 2000, according to the Labor Department.

Workers that leave jobs voluntarily aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits, and that attrition might mean companies don’t need to lay off other employees if business slows.

Many economists expect worker shortages to persist as long-term shifts, including accelerating retirements, keep workers from seeking jobs. Some, though, think labor shortages will ease this fall due to an abating pandemic, school reopenings and expiring unemployment benefits.

The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits overall is shrinking after programs created to respond to the pandemic’s effect on the labor market ended in all states last month.

One of those programs provided payments to gig workers and others typically not eligible to tap unemployment insurance. Another extended payments to people who had exhausted state benefits. In addition, the federal government funded a $300 a week enhancement for all unemployment programs.

Continuing claims, a proxy for those receiving payments, made to all unemployment programs fell to about 4.17 million in mid-September from about 12 million in late August, before the pandemic aid expired nationwide. That data isn’t seasonally adjusted and reported on a several week delay.

Some states have continued to process continuing pandemic claims in the weeks after programs ended, likely reflecting a remaining backlog in payments.

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