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Weekly U.S. unemployment claims remain high

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The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week, to a seasonally adjusted 382,000. The level suggests hiring remains weak.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications declined by 3,000 from the previous week, which was revised up. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fifth straight week, to 377,750, the highest level in nearly three months.

Applications were skewed higher two weeks ago by the fallout from Hurricane Isaac. But a Labor Department spokesman said there were no special factors last week.

Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Employers added only 96,000 jobs last month, below the 141,000 in July and much lower than the average 226,000 added in the first three months of the year. Recent job gains are barely enough to keep up with the growth of the working age population and aren't enough to rapidly drive down unemployment.

"Businesses clearly remain reluctant to aggressively boost their workforces," said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, in a note to clients.

The unemployment rate dropped in August, to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent. But that was only because fewer people were looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.

The number of people receiving unemployment aid fell sharply earlier this month. About 5.2 million people received benefits the week ending Sept. 1, the most recent data available. That's a drop of about 220,000 from the previous week.

The economy isn't growing fast enough to support much more hiring. It grew at a tepid 1.7-percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from 2 percent in the January-March quarter and 4.1 percent in the final three months of last year.

Growth isn't likely to get much better for the rest of this year. Economists expect the economy to grow at a roughly 2-percent pace.

High unemployment and sluggish growth prompted the Federal Reserve last week to announce several major steps to attempt to boost the economy. Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed will buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities a month until there is "substantial" improvement in the job market.

Bernanke said at a news conference that high unemployment is "a grave concern" that causes "enormous suffering."

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  • really??
    and there are people out there who are still going to vote Obama???? the guy isn't getting it done! And now we have Bernanke basically saying the TARP hasn't created jobs so now we're just going to keep spending and if the first 40 billion doesn't work...we'll just keep buying until it does. This frustrates the daylights out of me how people can look at the last four years and think that Obama is better than a guy who has experience turning around companies. Forget the likeability factor people. We're electing someone to turn the economy around. not someone who makes promises on Letterman. Has anyone ever been employed by someone who was poor? yet for some reason Obama supporters think that taking business owners money will help the poor and create jobs? The whole idea that Obama helps the poor and Romney is for the rich is fabricated by a liberal media.

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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