Posted by: jeb1 | March 31, 2011

New Claims for Unemployment Benefits Dip from USA Today

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week.

  • In this March 21, 2011 photo, job seekers fill out job applications at a teen job fair held at the Swanson Public Library in Omaha, Neb. By Nati Harnik, The Associated Press
  • In this March 21, 2011 photo, job seekers fill out job applications at a teen job fair held at the Swanson Public Library in Omaha, Ne.

    The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people filing new claims for benefits dipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 388,000 for the week that ended March 26. That’s the second decline in three weeks.Applications near 375,000 or below are consistent with a sustained increase in hiring. Applications peaked during the recession at 659,000.The four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose to 394,250. Still, that figure has dropped by 35,500, or 8%, in the past eight weeks.

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  • The department also revised the previous five years of data. The changes showed that applications in recent weeks were moderately higher than previously reported.

    Weekly unemployment claims

    As applications have fallen, hiring has started to pick up. Economists forecast that employers added a net total of 185,000 jobs in March. That would be just below February’s gain of 192,000 — the most jobs added in nearly a year. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 8.9%.The March data will be released Friday.Still, hiring must rise by about 300,000 a month to rapidly bring down the unemployment rate, economists say.And new jobless claims would need to dip consistently to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant and steady decline in the unemployment rate.The economy has gained more than a million jobs in the past year but still has 7.5 million fewer jobs than before the recession.The number of people collecting benefits also dropped. It fell by 51,000 to 3.7 million in the week ending March 19, the latest data available. But that doesn’t include millions of people receiving aid under the emergency unemployment benefit programs put in place during the recession.All told, 8.8 million people received unemployment benefits in the week ending March 12, the latest data available. That’s slightly higher than the previous week.Another report showed that factory orders fell in February, as the government cut demand for military planes and communications equipment while businesses bought fewer computers, turbines and power generators.Orders to U.S. factories slipped 0.1% in February after three straight monthly gains, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.When excluding transportation, orders rose 0.1%. That’s the seventh straight increase for that category. Still, a key measure of what businesses spent on capital goods fell for the second straight month.Even with the decline, factory orders totaled $446 billion last month. That’s a level economists view as healthy and it is 26.4% above the recession low hit in March 2009.Economists expect the sector will grow in the months ahead, based on strong demand for exports and tax cuts designed to encourage businesses to spend more on capital goods.One concern is that the category that measures business investment in capital goods dropped 0.7% in February. That followed a 5.9% fall in January — the biggest in two years.

    Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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