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Weekly U.S. unemployment benefit claims dip slightly

Associated Press
January 2, 2014
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The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dipped by 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, evidence that layoffs are low and hiring will likely remain steady.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week average rose 8,500, to 357,250. The average was driven up in recent weeks by spikes that reflected seasonal volatility around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The government struggles to account for seasonal hiring by retailers and other businesses and for temporary layoffs of school employees during the holidays.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They appear to have stabilized near the pre-recession levels reached in the late summer and are at a level consistent with solid hiring.

The job market has picked up in recent months. Employers have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from August through November. That's helped lower the unemployment rate to a five-year low of 7 percent.

There have been other signs the economy is improving. Americans are more confident and spending more. And orders to U.S. manufacturers jumped in November, evidence that businesses are spending more on factory-made items such as machinery, computers and electrical goods.

Not all the data have been positive: Income rose at a slower pace than spending last month. That means Americans saved less to spend more. And existing home sales have fallen for three straight months, held back by higher prices and mortgage rates.

Still, the economy expanded at a 4.1-percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, the best growth in nearly two years. The healthy gain largely reflected a jump in restocking. That's unlikely to be repeated in the current October-December quarter. But many economists have become more optimistic about the fourth quarter and expect growth will clock in at a solid 2.5-percent annual rate.

Nearly 4.5 million people received benefits in the week ending Dec. 14, the latest data available. That's 180,000 more than the previous week.

Nearly 1.4 million of those recipients are getting benefits under an emergency program put in place five years ago and paid for by the federal government.

The program provided up to 47 extra weeks of benefits. But it expired last week and will cut off benefits for about 1.3 million people, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group.

The impact probably won't show up in the data until mid-January, because the figures for total benefit recipients are released with a two-week lag.

Economists predict that the benefit cutoff will cause the unemployment rate to fall by as much as a quarter of percentage point in early 2014. But they worry that the drop will likely occur because many of the former recipients will give up on their job searches, which are required in order to receive benefits. The government counts people as unemployed only if they're actively seeking jobs

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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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