The Times West Virginian

Headline News

February 15, 2013

Sharp fall in U.S. jobless claims boosts outlook

WASHINGTON — The outlook for the U.S. job market is brightening after a government report showed a sharp drop in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits.

Weekly applications fell 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Outside a few weeks last month affected by seasonal distortions, that’s the lowest level in nearly five years.

The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, stayed near a five-year low.

Economists were encouraged by the decline but want to see the progress sustained and more jobs created. Since the recession ended in June 2009, the job market has shown brief bursts of improvement in the winter months only to falter in the spring.

In addition, the huge snowstorm that affected the Northeastern states over the weekend could push up applications in the coming weeks. The latest report covered the week ended Feb. 9, prior to when the storm hit.

“This is tentatively a positive signal for the labor market,” Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, said in a note to clients.

Falling applications signal fewer layoffs. More hiring usually follows, but not always.

Since November, the four-week average has declined 5 percent to 352,500 applications. And job growth has increased to an average of 200,000 net positions a month from November through January, up from 150,000 in the previous three months.

But the employment report measures net job gains, which equals total hiring minus layoffs, quits and other separations.

A decline in layoffs can boost net job gains even when total hiring is flat or down. A separate Labor Department report earlier this week showed that layoffs fell to a 10-year low in December. Overall hiring, however, also declined.

Many companies may be more cautious about hiring now that a 2 percentage point increase in Social Security taxes is cutting consumers’ take-home pay. That could slow growth.

Still, if applications remain consistently below 350,000, net job growth should increase, said Carl Riccadonna, an economist at Deutsche Bank. Monthly gains could rise to an average of 225,000 per month, he added.

Gains at that level should steadily lower the still-high unemployment rate, which ticked up to 7.9 percent in January from 7.8 percent in December.

Economists expect the rate will decline if hiring continues at last year’s monthly pace of 180,000. The rate fell 0.7 percentage points in 2012.

The number of people receiving benefits has increased. More than 5.9 million people received benefits in the week ended Jan. 26, the latest data available. That was about 325,000 more than the previous week.

The economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the October-December quarter, hurt by a sharp cut in defense spending, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles. That’s much slower than the 3.1 percent growth recorded in the July-September period.

Still, economists expect that figure will be revised in the coming months to show a small increase, after more data about last quarter has been reported. Economists at Barclays Capital estimate the economy expanded 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

Growth will likely pick up a bit in the January-March quarter to an annual rate of 1.5 percent, analysts forecast. That’s better than the fourth quarter but below last year’s expansion of 2.2 percent.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Obama voices skepticism on Russia in Ukraine

    President Barack Obama conveyed skepticism Thursday about Russian promises to de-escalate a volatile situation in Ukraine, and said the United State and its allies are ready to impose fresh sanctions if Moscow doesn’t make good on its commitments.

    April 18, 2014

  • President defending health-care law good for some Democrats

    President Barack Obama’s full-throated defense of his health-care overhaul seems perfectly timed for Democrats who want their party to embrace the law more enthusiastically.
    At a White House news conference Thursday, Obama noted that health insurance enrollments under the new law are higher than expected, and costs are lower.

    April 18, 2014

  • Deal reached on calming Ukraine tensions — for now

    In a surprise accord, Ukraine and Russia agreed Thursday on tentative steps to halt violence and calm tensions along their shared border after more than a month of Cold War-style military posturing triggered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

    April 18, 2014

  • Boston Marathon organizers confident of safe race

    The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while organizers sought to assure the city and runners of a safe race next week.
    The actions of the man, whose mother said he had a mental disorder, rattled nerves as Boston prepared for the annual race, but authorities said they did not consider it a security breach.

    April 17, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing anniversary

    Survivors, first responders and relatives of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing marked the anniversary Tuesday with tributes that combined sorrow over the loss of innocent victims with pride over the city’s resilience in the face of a terror attack.

    April 16, 2014

  • Questions linger year after Boston Marathon bombs

    A surveillance video shows a man prosecutors say is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placing a bomb near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just yards from where an 8-year-old boy was killed when it exploded.

    April 15, 2014

  • Little sign of progress as Obama, Putin speak

    Speaking for the first time in more than two weeks, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little sign of agreement Monday, with the U.S. leader urging pro-Russian forces to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin denying that Moscow was interfering in the region.

    April 15, 2014

  • 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting

    A man opened fire outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, killing two people before driving over to a retirement community a few blocks away and killing someone else, authorities said.

    April 14, 2014

  • Couple: Truck was on fire before deadly bus crash

    A couple said a FedEx tractor-trailer was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.
    Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.

    April 13, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads