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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. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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