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Unemployment aid requests fall to near 3-year low

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The number of people requesting unemployment benefits last week plunged to a nearly three-year low, bolstering likelihood that companies will increase the pace of hiring this year.

Applications for unemployment benefits fell by 20,000, to a seasonally adjusted 368,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the third decline in the last four weeks. Applications are now at their lowest level since May 2008.

The four-week average for applications, a less volatile figure, fell last week to 388,500. That's the lowest level since July 2008, the last time the four-week average was below 400,000.

Economists say applications that remain consistently below 375,000 tend to signal declines in the unemployment rate. Applications for benefits peaked during the recession at 651,000.

The downward trend in applications suggests that companies are easing the pace of layoffs now that the economy is gaining momentum. During the recession, companies slashed work forces, cut or froze workers' pay and took other aggressive steps to reduce costs.

Companies are expected to increase hiring in the month ahead.

Employers probably added 175,000 new jobs in February, economists predict. That would mark an improvement from an anemic 36,000 in January when snowstorms and bad weather hurt job gains. The government releases the employment report for February on Friday.

At the same time, economists think the unemployment rate edged up to 9.1 percent in February as more jobseekers — perhaps feeling better about their prospects — stream into the labor market looking for work.

Stronger job creation is needed to steadily reduce unemployment. The economy needs to produce at least 200,000 a month on a consistent basis for that to happen.

Thursday's report also showed the number of people receiving unemployment benefits dropped to 3.77 million, the lowest level since mid-October 2008.

That doesn't include millions of people enrolled in emergency unemployment benefit programs funded by the federal government. Another 4.5 million unemployed workers received benefits under the extended programs during the ending Feb. 12, the latest data available. Altogether, 9.2 million people were on the benefit rolls that week.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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