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U.S. jobless claims increase to highest level in a month

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The number of Americans filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits climbed last week to a one-month high, showing little progress in the labor market.

Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week, to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed Thursday in Washington, D.C. The median forecast of 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 365,000. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 368,000.

Companies may be keeping payrolls lean after slashing headcounts during the recession while waiting for further assurances that economic growth will pick up. The European debt crisis and slowdown in Asia remain obstacles to investor and business confidence.

“We are stuck in this mediocre range for claims,” said Michael Hanson, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Corp. in New York. “In an uncertain environment, firms tend not to stick their neck out and make big hiring and investment decisions.”

The Labor Department revised the previous week’s figure up to 368,000 from an initially reported 366,000.

A spokesman for the Labor Department said there was nothing unusual in the data last week.

Employers added 163,000 workers last month, the biggest gain since February, according to the Labor Department jobs report issued earlier this month. The figures also showed the jobless rate climbed to a five-month high of 8.3 percent.

Unemployment has been above 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch in the post-World War II era.

Thursday’s report showed the number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits climbed by 4,000 in the week ended Aug. 11, to 3.32 million.

The continuing-claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Those who’ve used up their traditional benefits and are now collecting emergency and extended payments decreased by about 48,300, to 2.33 million, in the week ended Aug. 4.

Thirty states and territories reported a decline in claims, while 22 reported an increase. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Staples Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. are among companies signaling concern about the labor-market outlook.

“We further reduced head count during the second quarter, which is now down nearly 15 percent over the past year,” Michael Miles, president and chief operating officer at Staples, said on an Aug. 15 earnings call. “The sales environment remains extremely difficult.”

Lowe’s, the Mooresville, N.C.-based home-improvement retailer, could benefit from a stronger recovery in housing even as hiring stagnates.

“Obviously, unemployment is a still a challenge and the overall macro environment are still a challenge and a headwind going forward,” Robert Niblock, chairman and CEO of Lowe’s, said on an Aug. 20 earnings call. “We don’t know how demand will be impacted by that, but certainly we think housing is nearing the bottom of the cycle.”

Many Federal Reserve policy makers said additional stimulus probably will be needed soon unless the economy shows signs of a durable pickup, according to minutes of their most recent meeting released Wednesday.

“Many members judged that additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted fairly soon unless incoming information pointed to a substantial and sustainable strengthening in the pace of the economic recovery,” according to the record of the Federal Open Market Committee’s July 31- Aug. 1.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke could signal new measures to support the expansion in a speech next week.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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