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Category: Unemployment

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Jobless claims jump 15,000 but stay below key 400,000 level

 

New York help wanted sign

The number of new people filing for jobless benefits last week increased by 15,000, but the total figure continued to remain below the key level of 400,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Overall, there were 381,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance in the week ending Dec. 24, reversing a downward trend this month. There were 404,000 initial claims the last week of November.

The average number of seasonally adjusted new claims over the past four weeks is 375,000, a decrease of 5,750 from the previous week's average of 380,750 and a promising sign for the economic recovery. , The four-week rolling average is considered a more stable indicator than the one-week figures. Economists say that weekly claims consistently below 400,000 are a sign of steady job growth.

The unemployment rate dropped to 8.6% in November. Economists expect that December's data, to be released Jan. 6, will show another decline.

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-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: A help-wanted sign in New York last week. Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

 

Economic growth revised down but jobless claims hit 44-month low

  Unemployment benefits protestor

The U.S. economy grew at a sluggish annual rate of 1.8% from July through September, down from earlier estimates, the government said Thursday.

The new data threw some cold water on hopes that the economic recovery had picked up significant steam in the second half of the year. The initial estimate of third-quarter growth, released in October, was 2.5%, but the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis has revised it down twice since then.

Thursday's figure was the final one, and came in somewhat below the 2% level that most economists had expected. Fourth-quarter data will be released early next year.

The third quarter still showed faster growth than the 1.3% rate for the second quarter, and has allayed fears that the nation was headed toward another recession. Increased consumer spending helped fuel the improvement in the third quarter, but budget cutting by state and local governments remained a drag on growth, the Commerce Department said.

The new data was offset somewhat Thursday by continued improvement in the employment picture. New jobless claims declined again last week, falling to 364,000, the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said.

The number of initial unemployment claims was down from the previous week's revised figure of 368,000, and the four-week average of 380,250 is below the 400,000 figure that economists say is key to cutting into the unemployment rate.

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-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Gwen Williams of Norton Shores, Mich., outside Rep. Bill Huizenga's Muskegon office during a rally this month calling on Congress to extend unemployment insurance benefits, which will expire Dec. 31. Credit: Muskegon Chronicle / Associated Press

New jobless claims drop to lowest level since 2008

New jobless claims dropped last week to the lowest level since May 2008
Initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped to 366,000 last week, the lowest level since May of 2008, in another sign that the job market is making a significant improvement.

The new figures released Thursday by the Labor Department showed a drop of 19,000 initial claims from the previous week's adjusted figure of 385,000. The four-week average is 387,750 -- below the 400,000 level that economists say is key to cutting into the unemployment rate.

There were 427,000 initial jobless claims in the same week last year, and more than 600,000 people were filing for unemployment benefits each week during the depths of the "Great Recession" in early 2009.

"It looks like Christmas is coming after all this year for the economy," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York. "Initial jobless claims have tumbled the last two weeks in a way that suggests more Americans are finding work."

The new jobless figures are consistent with an annualized economic growth rate of about 3.5% in the last three months of the year, Rupkey said, which would be a marked improvement over the 2% growth rate in the third quarter.

The sharp downward trend in jobless claims comes after the unemployment rate fell to 8.6% in November, from 9% the previous month. Thursday's data helped boost investors, with the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 100 points in early trading.

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Photo: Attendees at a New York job fair on Monday. Credit: Associated Press

 

 

Top U.S. CEOs still cautious about economic recovery

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney
The nation's top business chief executives remained cautious about the economic recovery, with a leading gauge of their outlook little changed in the last three months of the year.

The Business Roundtable's quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey Index ticked up slightly to 77.9 from 77.6 in the third quarter of the year. But that is still significantly down from the 109.9 level in the second quarter, before the European debt crisis began taking its toll on the global economy. The index can range from 150 to negative 50, with a figure above 50 signifying economic expansion and below 50 indicating a contraction.

"The findings of this survey reflect the continuation of a slow, uneven recovery characterized by ongoing economic uncertainty for American businesses," said the group's chairman, Boeing Co. Chief Executive Jim McNerney. The Business Roundtable, which represents top U.S. companies, surveyed 130 of its member chief executives.

Executives were a little more optimistic about company's sales in the next six months, with 68% expecting an increase, up from 65% in the third quarter. But they said that would have no effect on hiring. In fact, 35% of the chief executives said they expected to increase their U.S. employment in the next six months, down from 36% the previous quarter.

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Photo: Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney at the APEC CEO Summit in Hawaii in November. Credit: Reuters.

Jobless rate falls to 8.6%, sending mixed message on economy

La-fi-jobs2
The U.S. jobless rate fell sharply last month to its lowest level since March 2009 as employers stepped up their hiring in the latest sign of a steadily improving economy.

The report Friday from the Labor Department wasn’t entirely positive. The unexpectedly big fall in the unemployment rate, to 8.6% from 9% in October, was partly due to droves of workers, mostly women, who dropped out of the labor force, many probably because they saw weak job prospects.

A separate survey of employers in the U.S. showed they added 120,000 net new jobs in November, a relatively modest number given the economy’s needs, but Labor officials said there was more hiring under the radar at start-ups and family enterprises than these data captured.

Still, both worker and employer surveys pointed to a job market that is continuing to make strides since summer, despite ongoing concerns over the European debt crisis, the still-depressed U.S. housing market and the looming budget and fiscal cuts in the U.S.

The Labor Department revised higher the job growth in September and October by a total of 72,000 jobs, meaning job creation over the last three months averaged 143,000 a month. That’s almost double the monthly average from May to August when the debt-ceiling turmoil in Washington and the supply chain disruptions from Japan’s natural disasters took a toll on stock markets, manufacturing and overall confidence.

“The data shows the economy is still not robust but improving at a faster clip,” said Patrick O’Keefe, an economist for the advisory firm J.H. Cohn and a former Labor Department official.

The November job tally got a big lift from retailers, which boosted their head counts by 50,000 -– the second largest holiday hiring in November in a decade. Consumer spending has been surprisingly resilient in recent months, and strong retail sales during the long Thanksgiving weekend will boost confidence if the spending is sustained.

Temporary-help firms and the leisure industry -– hotels and restaurants -– also boosted their payrolls last month by about 20,000 each. Better-paying professional services, such as computer engineers and accountants, added several thousand jobs. Manufacturing payrolls were flat.

Some economists saw little to cheer about in the jobs report, saying the big drop in unemployment was likely to be reversed in the coming months. The jobless rate fell in one month by a similar magnitude last December, to 9.4%, and then again the next month to 9%. The rate went back up to as high as 9.2% this June.

“When you see the unemployment rate fall because people drop out of the labor force, you can’t be too happy about that,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. He called the big rate drop a “statistical quirk.”

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New unemployment claims fall again in positive sign for job growth

San Francisco job fair

The number of people who filed for unemployment benefits last week dropped again to 390,000, the lowest level since April, continuing a trend that bodes well for job growth.

The number of initial jobless claims was down 10,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 400,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The initial figure for two weeks ago was 397,000, but was revised upward.

Still, over the last month, the average weekly number of jobless claims is right at 400,000 -- a key figure that economists say indicates a decrease in the unemployment rate.

"The wheels of the economy are spinning fast enough to put Americans back to work," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York. "The unemployment rate could fall as much as one percentage point over the next year now if these claims data stick at this level."

The government data come after sluggish but steady job growth in October. The economy added 80,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 9% from 9.1% in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.

The weekly unemployment claims report helped give a bit of a boost to the stock market Thursday amid continued concerns about the European debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 40 points in early trading after Wednesday's big sell off.

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Weekly jobless claims drop below 400,000

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: People line up at a job fair in San Francisco on Wednesday. Credit: Getty Images

 

 

Weekly jobless claims drop below 400,000

New York City job fair
The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits dipped below 400,000 last week, a key move that indicates the job market is improving.

The 397,000 initial claims were down 9,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The figure has hovered near 400,000 for several weeks. The average over the last month has been 404,500.

At the depths of the Great Recession, in early 2009, weekly claims were above 600,000.

The new data come a day before the government will release the October unemployment report. Economists are expecting about 100,000 jobs were created last month, slow growth that is unlikely to significantly move the nation's 9.1% unemployment rate.

But the jobless claim figures Thursday were another sign of modest progress recently in the economic recovery. Last week, the government reported that the economy grew at a 2.5% annual rate from July through September.

The improved economic growth -- nearly double the pace in the second quarter -- was cited by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday as an indication that the recovery has begun to strengthen. Still, with the European debt crisis hanging over the global economy, the Fed downgraded its projections for growth through 2013.

The Fed said the unemployment rate would not drop below 9% this year and would remain high next year, within a range of 8.5% to 8.7%.

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Photo: Job seekers at a New York City career fair last month. Credit: Getty Images.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says growth will be 'frustratingly slow'

Bernanke2-blog
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the central bank is doing all it can to spur the economy and reduce unemployment, but admitted that growth “is likely to be frustratingly slow.”

That slower growth -- reflected in a downgrade of the Fed’s economic projections for the rest of the year and beyond -- is not satisfactory, Bernanke told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

“I certainly understand that many people are dissatisfied with the state of the economy,” he said. "I’m dissatisfied with the state of the economy.”

Bernanke said the Fed was prepared to take stronger action, but for now it was standing pat.

The Fed’s policymaking Open Market Committee took no new actions at the conclusion Wednesday of its two-day meeting, citing somewhat improved economic growth recently, including increased household spending and continued investments by businesses in equipment and software.

But the Fed warned of “significant downside risks to the economic outlook, including strains in global financial markets” -- a clear reference to the European debt crisis.

Bernanke said it was “a bit frustrating” waiting on the sidelines for European leaders to address their problems. “Unfortunately we can’t disassociate ourselves from Europe. The things that happen there do affect us,” he said.

Bernanke said the situation there adds to a string of negative events, particularly the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, that have hampered the U.S. recovery.

“There has been a certain amount of bad luck and I think the volatility in financial markets associated with the European situation has been a drag on the recovery,” Bernanke said. “It’s part of the reason why the second half of 2011 was less strong.”

The continued volatility has dampened the confidence of U.S. consumers, and Bernanke advised people to continue to try to make good financial decisions until the economy is stronger.

“My best advice to Americans is to continue to live your lives and continue to think about your personal situation and continue to make smart decisions based on your own financial situation,” he said.

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Photo: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke attends a news conference following a two-day policy session in Washington. Credit: Reuters

Wealthy can declare support for Occupy Wall Street on new website

Occupy Wall Street supporter

While members of the so-called 99% take part in Occupy Wall Street protests, a new website lets some of the wealthy 1% declare their support for the movement.

The site, called "We are the 1 percent, We stand with the 99 percent," lets people post photos of themselves pronouncing their solidarity with the Occupy protesters in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

"When I was 18 my father won $9 million in the California lottery," one person posted on the site, along with a photo of him holding his message written on two pieces of white paper. "With that money I now have no college debt. When my father dies I will inherit a 3rd of his money. I am committed to using it to help those less fortunate. Due to sheer luck, I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%."

The posts contain no names, but similarly show people holding up handwritten notes on pieces of paper, index cards or cardboard explaining why they back the movement. (Although there is a link to a YouTube video of singer Willie Nelson publicly backing the protests).

Organizers of the site identified two of the people with posts on the site, including Carl Schweser, who created a study program that now is part of Kaplan Schweser, a company that helps people prepare for financial exams.

"I made millions studying the math of mortgages and bonds and helping bankers pass the Chartered Financial Analyst Exam," Schweser wrote on the site. "It isn’t fair that I have retired in comfort after a career working with financial instruments while people who worked as nurses, teachers, soldiers, etc. are worried about paying for their future, their healthcare, and their children’s educations."

"They are the backbone of this country that allowed me to succeed," he continued. "I am willing to pay more taxes so that everyone can look forward to a secure future like I do. I am the 1%. I stand with the 99%. (Which equals 100% of America.) Tax me.”

Many of the posts are from children of wealthy parents or people who have inherited money.

"Being born to the right family at the right time made me a millionaire," one man writes. "Giving most of the money away made me happy."

A woman posted that, "I can afford to work my dream job at an arts non-profit because my husband works for Google. We should all be able to afford following our dreams."

The site was created by two organizations: Resource Generation, which organizes wealthy young people to work for social change, and Wealth for Common Good, a group of wealthy people and business executives that advocate for what they call fair taxation, such as higher tax rates on millionaires.

The groups said they were inspired by the “We are the 99 percent” blog, which posts similar declarations from people participating in the Occupy protests.

“Those of us with more than we need and who believe in a more just distribution of resources can stand up and tell the truth about how the deck has been stacked in our favor," said Elspeth Gilmore, co-director of Resource Generation. "We need to say that we think it’s wrong too.”

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Photo: A wealthy supporter of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Credit: Westandwiththe99percent.tumblr.com

Weekly jobless claims dip to 402,000 but still are high

Crenshaw job fair
New jobless claims dipped last week to 402,000, another somewhat encouraging sign for the still-troubled economy -- though still too high to make a dent in the unemployment rate.

The new data Thursday came as the government also said that the economy grew at a 2.5% annual rate in the third quarter. Combined, the news is helping boost a stock market already thrilled by a long-awaited deal in Europe earlier in the day to address the debt crisis.

The government figures on unemployment claims and gross domestic product  "are consistent with a brighter recovery," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York.

"The economy is off life support and the chance of a double dip is fading," he said. "There is not one sign of recession in these data today."

The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits last week were down 2,000 from the previous week's 404,000. The average for the last four weeks was 405,500.

Economists say that claims need to be consistently below 400,000 for strong job growth.

But economist Sung Won Sohn at Cal State Channel Islands said the economy still is not growing fast enough to see a major change in the nation's 9.1% unemployment rate in the near future.

The government will report on October job creation on Nov. 4. Economists are expecting about 100,000 new jobs were added this month, roughly the same as in September, according to a survey by Bloomberg News. And September's numbers did not budge the unemployment rate.

"The economy has shed fears of a double-dip recession and has regained some strength," Sohn said. "However, it is too early to celebrate a return to a robust economic recovery."

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Photo: Unemployed workers at a job fair in Crenshaw in August. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times.

Economy grows at 2.5% in third quarter, easing recession fears

Shoppers in Florida

The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5% in the three months ending Sept. 30, the government reported, easing fears that the nation would fall into a second recession but still too slow a pace to cut significantly into the high unemployment rate.

"We're inching our way forward," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

The new data from the Commerce Department on Thursday showed slow but steady improvement in the economy throughout 2011. The third-quarter data was in line with economists' projections.

Consumer spending, particularly on automobiles, helped boost growth. Personal consumption increased at an annual rate of 2.4% in the third quarter, compared with just a 0.7% increase in the second quarter.

Much of that increase, as well as other economic activity, was consumers and businesses catching up after the extremely slow growth of early this year, caused in part by the supply-chain disruptions of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Swonk said.

But even trying to make up for the slow growth in early 2011, the "re-acceleration" of the economy in the third quarter was not at breakneck speed, Swonk said.

"Given the weakness we saw earlier in the year, this is catch-up with not a lot of catch-up," she said. "Two steps forward with one step back."

Kathy Bostjancic, director for macroeconomic analysis at the Conference Board, called the third-quarter growth "an unsustainable spurt." She noted the group's closely watched index of consumer confidence plunged this month to levels not seen since the recession ended in 2009.

"Continued woes in the housing market are overshadowed by consumer concern over the anemic labor market, as highlighted by the decline in consumer sentiment back to 2008-09 levels," Bostjancic said in a statement. "Sustained economic growth above 2.0 percent is simply unlikely."

Still, the threat of a double-dip recession is on hold for now, although the economy is "still muddling along, not cruising along," Swonk said.

Fears of a second recession were stoked when the economy barely grew in the first three months of the year, expanding at an annual rate of just 0.4%. A recession is two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

Things were looking only slightly better in the summer, when the government estimated that the economy grew at an anemic 1% rate in the second quarter.

That reading in August, combined with continued poor job creation and the historic downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor's after the bitter debt-ceiling debate, led economists to warn the nation was in danger of slipping into a second recession a little more than two years after the last one ended.

But last month the government revised second-quarter economic growth up to 1.3%. And increased consumer spending and other data began pointing away from another downturn.

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Photo: Elsy Santiago, left, and her sister Betsy at a store in Hialeah, Fla., last month. Credit: Associated Press.

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