Every time economists count the labor market out, it gets back up again. 
The number of people who filed for unemployment insurance declined last week, dropping 12,000 to 214,000 total claims, according to the Department of Labor. This is right around the four-week average of 212,250, but well below many economists' forecasts.  
The surprise decline comes amid a slew of mixed messages from the U.S. job market. The unemployment rate remains at a historically low 3.5 percent, even as data show that job openings fell 10.1 million in August, according to the Labor Department. 
The decline indicated that the tight labor market of recent years is beginning to loosen up. However, the rate of quits and layoff remained high, which is usually interpreted as a sign that workers still have leverage over employers due to labor shortages. 
Tempering the good news from the labor market though is another sign that the economy may be headed for recession. 
The Conference Board, a non-governmental organization that tracks the economy, released its updated Leading Economic Index on Thursday, which showed a 0.4 percent drop in September. 
"The US LEI fell again in September and its persistent downward trajectory in recent months suggests a recession is increasingly likely before year end," said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economics at The Conference Board, in a news release.
The index is down 2.8 percent over the six-month period ending in September, compared to a 1.4 percent increase over the six months before that. Stock prices, consumer expectations for business conditions, and orders from manufacturers were the biggest indicators contributing to the decline. 
The Conference Board also predicted that real GDP growth will be 1.5 percent year-over-year in 2022, and then drop further in the second half of next year.