Jobless claims unchanged last week

WASHINGTON, Thu Aug 30, 2012 – The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits was unchanged last week, pointing to a labor market that was treading water.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were a seasonally adjusted 374,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to show 2,000 more applications than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 370,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, rose 1,500 to 370,250.

Jobless claims have risen by 10,000 in August, suggesting some moderation in the pace of job growth this month after payrolls increased 163,000 in July from 64,000 in June.

The state of the labor market, particularly the unemployment rate, could determine whether the Federal Reserve will offer additional monetary stimulus to the economy at its September 12-13 policy meeting.

The unemployment rate, which ticked up to 8.3 percent in July, has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.

Although housing and retail sales data suggest that economic activity picked up early in the third quarter, business spending is weakening and inflation is slowing.

The number of people still receiving benefits under regular state programs after an initial week of aid fell 5,000 to 3.32 million in the week ended August 18. The so-called continuing claims data fell during the week of the August household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived.

April hiring slows, unemployment rate falls to 8.1 percent

WASHINGTON, Fri May 4, 2012 – Employers decreased hiring for the second straight month in April but the unemployment rate still fell to 8.1 percent, giving mixed messages about the economy’s strength ahead of President Barack Obama’s November re-election bid.

Employers added 115,000 workers to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.

The reading keeps fears alive that the U.S. economy is losing momentum and dampens hopes that a stretch of strong winter hiring signaled a turning point for the recovery.

The unemployment rate ticked a tenth of a point lower to a three-year low, as people left the work force. The jobless rate is derived from a separate survey of households, which showed a drop in the number of jobs in April.

Still, the government revised upward its initial estimates for payroll growth in February and March by a combined 53,000. That left the six-month average of job growth at 197,000, nearly exactly where it would have been had April job growth come in as expected at 170,000.

“We’re still growing just gradually,” said Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

“Hiring is coming back into line with what you would expect with sluggish growth.”

The report, which regularly sets the tone for financial markets around the world, could rattle nerves at the White House. Weak U.S. growth and high unemployment create a formidable headwind for Obama, who entered office during the darkest days of the 2007-09 recession.

His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, repeatedly has accused Obama of doing too little to foster job growth.

The unemployment rate, which soared to as high as 10 percent during Obama’s first year in the office, held near 9 percent for most of last year before falling sharply over the winter.

Still, it remains about 2 percentage points higher than its average over the last 50 years, and the U.S. Federal Reserve thinks it probably will not post a full recovery for at least another several years.

Nevertheless, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last month the central bank is providing enough support for the economy.

Job growth surges, jobless rate drops to 8.3 percent

WASHINGTON – The economy created jobs at the fastest pace in nine months in January and the unemployment rate dropped to a near three-year low of 8.3 percent, providing some measure of comfort for President Barack Obama who faces re-election in November.

Nonfarm payrolls jumped 243,000, the Labor Department said on Friday, as factory jobs grew by the most in a year. The gain in overall employment was the largest since April and outpaced economists’ expectations for a rise of only 150,000.

The report pointed to underlying strength in the economy, despite expectations that growth will slow in the first quarter.

Economists had expected the jobless rate to hold steady at 8.5 percent. The rate is the lowest since February 2009 and has dropped 0.8 percentage point since August.

The decline last month reflected large gains in employment in the separate household survey from which the unemployment rate is derived.

“It’s certainly supportive of the U.S. recovery and suggests that momentum is gathering pace,” said Brian Dolan, chief market strategist at FOREX.com in Bedminster, N.Y.

U.S. Treasury debt prices fell sharply on the report, while stock index futures surged. The dollar rose against the yen.

The continued labor market improvement could be a relief for Obama who faces a tough re-election.

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.