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Unemployment benefit requests jump again

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The number of people applying for unemployment benefits jumped last week to the highest level in three months, another sign that the job market remains depressed.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose by 11,000, to a seasonally adjusted 428,000. The week included the Labor Day holiday.

Applications typically drop during short work weeks. In this case, applications didn't drop as much as the department expected, so the seasonally adjusted value rose. A Labor spokesman said the total wasn't affected by Hurricane Irene.

Still, applications appear to be trending up. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fourth straight week, to 419,500.

Applications need to fall below 375,000 to indicate that hiring is increasing enough to lower the unemployment rate. They haven't been below that level since February.

The economy added zero net jobs in August, the worst showing since September 2010. The unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent for the second straight month.

The job figures were weak because companies hired fewer workers and not because they stepped up layoffs, economists said. Business and consumer confidence fell last month after a series of events renewed recession fears.

The government reported that the economy barely grew in the first half of the year. Lawmakers fought over raising the debt ceiling. Standard & Poor's downgraded long-term U.S. debt for the first time in history. Stocks tumbled — the Dow lost nearly 16 percent of its value from July 21 through Aug. 10.

Businesses added only 17,000 jobs in August, which was a sharp drop from 156,000 in July. Government cut 17,000 jobs. Combined, total net payrolls did not change.

Unemployment benefit applications are considered a measure of the pace of layoffs.

The total number of people receiving benefits dipped 12,000, to 3.73 million, the third straight decline. But that doesn't include about 3.4 million additional people receiving extended benefits under emergency programs put in place during the recession. All told, about 7.14 million people received benefits for the week ending Aug. 27, the latest data available.

More jobs are desperately needed to fuel faster economic growth. Higher employment leads to more income. That boosts consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of economic growth.

Higher gas and food prices have cut into their buying power this year. The economy expanded at an annual rate of just 0.7 percent, the slowest growth since the recession officially ended two years ago.

The weakness has raised pressure on the Federal Reserve and the White House to take steps to boost economic growth.

Many economists expect they will decide at its meeting next week to shift money out of short-term mortgage-backed securities and into longer-term Treasury bonds. The move could push down longer-term interest rates, including rates on mortgages, auto loans and other consumer and business borrowing.

President Barack Obama has proposed a $447 billion job-creation package. He wants to cut Social Security taxes for workers, extend unemployment benefits, cut taxes for small businesses and spend more federal money to build roads, bridges and other public works projects.

Republicans oppose the president's plan, particularly after he said he wants to pay for it with higher taxes on wealthier households, hedge fund managers and oil companies.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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