Jobless rate tumbles to near four-year low

WASHINGTON, Fri Oct 5, 2012 – The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to a near four-year low of 7.8 percent in September, a potential boost to President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

The Labor Department said on Friday the unemployment rate, a key focus in the race for the White House, dropped by 0.3 percentage point to its lowest point since January 2009 as employers added 114,000 workers to their payrolls.

The drop in the unemployment rate reflected an even bigger surge in new jobs captured by a survey of households and came even as Americans returned to the labor force to resume the hunt for work. The workforce had shrank in the prior two months.

Payrolls for July and August were revised to show 86,000 more jobs created than previous reported, mostly to reflect increases in government employment.

The jobless rate is now where it was when Obama took office in January 2009. Household employment increased 873,000, the most since June 1983, according to the household survey. The bulk of the gains were part-time jobs.

“There is something in these numbers for everyone. The rise in the participation rate shows somewhat of a real improvement in the labor market,” said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

U.S. stock index futures rose on the report, while prices for Treasury debt tumbled. The dollar rose versus the yen and the euro.

Jobless claims fall to four-year low, manufacturing holds up

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Fri Mar 16, 2012 — Economic growth showed signs of becoming more self-sustaining as the number of Americans claiming new jobless benefits fell back to a four-year low last week and manufacturing activity in the Northeast picked up this month.

But the impact of higher oil prices also was starting to be seen in data on Thursday. Producer prices racked up their biggest increase in five months in February, while manufacturers in New York state reported a surge in input costs in March.

The recent gains in oil and gasoline prices have raised concerns the higher costs could start to squeeze businesses and consumers and put a dent in the recovery.

Still, producer prices last month did not rise as much as economists had expected, and underlying inflation pressures were contained.

Thursday’s initial claims data for state unemployment benefits was further evidence of an improving labor market after the jobless rate held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent in February.

“This suggests that the recovery is firmly on track,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Federal Reserve earlier this week acknowledged the recent improvement in the labor market, but remained concerned with the still-high unemployment rate. The central bank also reiterated its expectation it will keep interest rates at ultra-low levels through late-2014 as part of its efforts to support the economy.

Jobless claims hover near four-year lows

WASHINGTON – New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits edged down last week, holding near four-year lows, according to a government report on Thursday that suggested the labor market was gaining momentum.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 351,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 353,000 from the previously reported 351,000.

Claims have been hovering near four-year lows over the last few weeks. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims unchanged at 351,000 last week.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends, dropped 5,500 to 354,000 – the lowest level since March 2008.

New applications for jobless benefits have declined through much of February, raising hopes for a third straight month of solid employment gains.

Nonfarm employment likely increased 200,000 last month, according to a Reuters survey, after rising 243,000 in January. The unemployment rate is seen holding at a three-year low of 8.3 percent in February.

The government will release February’s employment report on March 9. While the labor market is gaining momentum, the level of employment is still 5.82 million from its prerecession level.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke described the labor market as “far from normal” and that further improvement would require stronger growth in final demand and production.

A Labor Department official said there was nothing unusual in the state-level data and that no states had been estimated.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 2,000 to 3.40 million in the week ended Feb. 18.

So-called continued claims covered the survey period for the household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived. Continued claims have declined 165,000 between the January and February survey periods.

Unemployment rate drops to 2½ year low – 8.6 percent

WASHINGTON ― The unemployment rate fell to a 2-1/2 year low in November, even though the pace of hiring remained too slow to suggest a significant quickening of the recovery.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 120,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, and the jobless rate dropped to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009, from 9.0 percent in October.

It was the biggest monthly decline since January. While part of the decrease was due to people leaving the labor force, the household survey from which the department calculates the unemployment rate also showed solid gains in employment.

“The economy is continuing to head in the right direction,” said Millan Mulraine, senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York. “However, the ultimate test of the sustainability of the recovery is for the economy to create a sufficient number of jobs to sustain a consumer-led rebound in activity.”

“On this measure, this report falls short,” he said.Although the gain in the number of jobs created as measured by the survey of employers was relatively modest, it marked a pickup from October’s upwardly revised 100,000 increase.

In all, 72,000 more jobs were created in October and September than previously reported.

The retail sector accounted for more than a third all new private sector jobs in November as shops geared up for a busy holiday season, but average earnings fell two cents.

Data ranging from manufacturing to retail sales suggest the U.S. economy’s growth pace could top 3 percent in the fourth quarter, an acceleration from the third quarter. In contrast, much of the rest of the world is slowing and the euro zone appears to have already fallen into recession.

Stocks on Wall Street opened higher on both the employment report and growing optimism of a solution to the European debt crisis, while prices for U.S. government debt fell. The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies.

The report could temper the appetite among some Federal Reserve officials to ease monetary policy further.

In forecasts released earlier this month, the Fed said the jobless rate would likely average 9 percent to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter. It did not expect it to drop to an 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent range until late next year.

However, it is unlikely to take much pressure off President Barack Obama, whose economic stewardship will face the judgment of voters next November.