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U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rise modestly

Associated Press
May 30, 2013
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The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 354,000, above analysts' expectations. Still, the level of applications is consistent with some hiring and remains near a five-year low.

The Labor Department said the four-week average, a less volatile measure, inched up 6,750, to 347,250, a third straight increase.

Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. Earlier this month, they fell to 338,000, the fewest in any week since 2008.

The decline in applications for unemployment aid has coincided with more hiring. In the past six months, employers have added an average of 208,000 jobs a month. That's up from an average of only 138,000 in the previous six months.

The unemployment rate has fallen to a four-year low of 7.5 percent, down from 10 percent in October 2009. The drop in unemployment has occurred, in part, because many people have given up looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively searching for a job.

"We can't make too many inferences from one week's results but the trend, overall, still points to improving labor markets," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Five states were unable to report complete data to the Labor Department, a spokesman said, because of the Memorial Day holiday earlier this week. The department estimated figures for those five states. That could mean that last week's figure will be revised more than usual next week when the final data is received.

Nearly 4.6 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits the week that ended May 11, the latest data available. That's down 25 percent from 6.1 million a year earlier.

A separate report Thursday showed that the economy expanded at a 2.4-percent annual pace in the first three months of the year. That was slightly below an earlier estimate of 2.5 percent, but much better than the 0.4% pace in the final three months of last year.

Economists expect growth will slow to about 2 percent in the current quarter, as businesses and consumers adjust to tax increases that took effect at the beginning of the year and federal government spending cuts that kicked in March 1.

Two reports this week suggested that the economy is still expanding at a steady pace. Home prices are surging and consumers are more confident. Both trends could encourage more spending in the coming months, providing crucial support for growth.

Consumer confidence jumped in May to the highest level in five years, the Conference Board said Tuesday. Soaring stock prices and Americans' brighter outlook on the job market helped drive the gain.

Home prices jumped nearly 11 percent in March from a year earlier, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index, also released Tuesday. That is the biggest gain in seven years.

Higher prices increase homeowners' net worth, which makes them more likely to spend. They can also sustain the housing recovery, by encouraging more would-be buyers to purchase homes before prices rise further.

More buyers are bidding on a tight supply of homes. That's encouraged builders to step up construction, which creates more jobs. Applications for building permits rose to the highest level in five years in April.

The brightening economic picture has raised speculation that the Federal Reserve would dial back its $85 billion a month bond-buying program. The purchases are intended to lower long-term interest rates and encourage more borrowing and spending.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress last week that it was too early to wind down the program. Fed policymakers have said they will continue the purchases until there is substantial improvement in employment.
 

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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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