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U.S. unemployment aid applications show decline

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The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell by 23,000 last week, further evidence that the job market is showing some improvement.

Applications for unemployment aid declined to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 in the week ending May 18, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s down from 363,000 the previous week and a level consistent with some job gains.

The less volatile four-week average ticked down just 500, to 339,500. That’s close to the five-year low of 338,000 reached during the first week of May. The four-week average is 9 percent lower than in November.

“The underlying story in jobless claims continues to be one of gradual improvement,” Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a research report.

Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The decline in claims has coincided with steady job growth over the past six months. Since November, employers have added an average 208,000 jobs a month. That’s up from just 138,000 jobs a month during the previous six months.

Still, much of the improvement has come from fewer layoffs, not robust hiring. Employers laid off just 1.7 million workers in March, only slightly above the 12-year low reached in January. Overall hiring, however, remains far below pre-recession levels.

More than 4.7 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits the week that ended May 4, down 23 percent from nearly 6.2 million a year earlier.

The United States still has 2.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007. The unemployment rate has fallen to a four-year low of 7.5 percent, down from 10 percent in October 2009. Some of the decrease is because many people have given up looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively searching for a job.

For hiring to strengthen enough to lower the unemployment rate to a more normal level of between 5.5 percent and 6 percent, companies must gain more confidence in the economy. But some may be hesitant to add workers because of concerns of deep federal spending cuts and tax increases.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee Wednesday that the job market is improving, but that higher taxes and government spending cuts likely will slow economic growth this year.

Bernanke said it was too early for the Fed to abandon its extraordinary efforts to boost economic growth. The Fed says it plans to keep its short-term interest rates near zero until unemployment is below 6.5 percent. And it is buying $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds to push down longer-term interest rates.

The Fed’s low interest-rate policies are intended to encourage more borrowing and spending, which boosts economic growth.
 

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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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