Fewer Seek Unemployment Aid as Job Market Improves

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Fewer seek unemployment aid as job market improvesWASHINGTON (AP) - The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to a level that signaled a steadily improving job market. The figures came one day before the government is expected to report that January marked another solid month for hiring.

Unemployment applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped for the third straight week to 375,750.

That's the second-lowest level for the four-week average since June 2008. When applications stay consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Economists expect the January employment report to show that employers added 155,000 jobs last month and that unemployment remained at 8.5 percent. In December, employers added 200,000 jobs.

The job market "still appears to be slowly moving in the right direction," said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

In a separate report, the government said workers were more productive in the final three months of last year. The growth in productivity, though, slowed from the previous quarter. Weaker productivity growth can help boost hiring if economic growth picks up.

Applications for unemployment benefits have steadily declined since fall as economic growth has picked up and employers have cut fewer jobs. The four-week average has fallen 7 percent since last October and 13 percent in the past year.

The nation will gain about 160,000 jobs a month this year, according to a survey of economists by the Associated Press. That's up from an average of about 135,000 last year.

Still, the job market has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the damage of the Great Recession, which wiped out 8.7 million jobs. More than 13 million people remain unemployed. Millions more have given up looking for work; they're no longer counted as unemployed.

Nearly 7.7 million Americans received unemployment benefits in the week ending Jan. 14, the latest period for which figures are available. That's unchanged from the previous week.

The economy's growth rate rose in the final three months of last year, to a 2.8 percent annual rate. That was faster than the 1.8 percent pace in the July-September quarter.
But a key reason for the growth was that companies restocked their supplies at a robust pace. Restocking is likely to slow in the first three months of this year, which would lead to weaker growth.

Until consumer spending picks up, businesses may be forced to cut back on hiring. But consumers have been weighed down by wages that haven't kept pace with inflation. More jobs and higher pay would invigorate consumer spending.

Most economists expected the combination of weaker inventory growth and tepid consumer spending to lead to slower growth in the current January-March quarter. Many are predicting 2 percent annualized growth this quarter.

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Mike

mike jones
GET RID OF THE DO NOTIHNG CONGRESS

Thursday at 9:58 AM Report abuse Permalink +1 rate up rate down Reply
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Mike

Congress has long made itself above the laws they pass for us. There is no chance these leaches will ever be honest. Time to let the fed govt default and fade away. There are 50 states fully able to do the governing with out the blood suking political class at the fed. Got gold?

February 07 2012 at 12:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Worried that the Federal Reserve and the U.S. dollar ARE on the brink of collapse, more than a dozen states have proposed using their own alternative currencies of silver and gold. ---NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Lawmakers from 13 states, including Minnesota, Tennessee, Iowa, South Carolina and Georgia, are seeking approval from their state governments to either issue their own alternative currency or explore it as an option. Just three years ago, only three states had similar proposals in place.

"In the likely event of hyperinflation, depression, or the breakdown of the Federal Reserve, State's governmental finances and private economy will be thrown into chaos," said North Carolina Republican Representative Glen Bradley in a currency bill he introduced last year.

Unlike individual communities, which ARE allowed to create their own currency -- as long as it is easily distinguishable from U.S. dollars -- the Constitution bans states from printing their own paper money or issuing their own currency. But it ALLOWS the states to make "gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts."

February 04 2012 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply