Make us your home page
Instagram

Four-month low in unemployment claims eases fears

WASHINGTON — After calamitous losses on Wall Street and fears of another recession, the economy got a dose of good news Thursday: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell below 400,000 for the first time since April.

Layoffs are easing in most states, and some economists are predicting mild improvement in job growth.

The brighter outlook was enough to catapult stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up nearly 423 points. Broader indexes also ended the day higher.

Weekly unemployment applications fell to a seasonally adjusted 395,000, the Labor Department said. They had been above 400,000 for the previous 17 weeks. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, fell to 405,000. That's the lowest level since mid April.

Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics, said the declining trend in applications is an encouraging sign for the job market.

"Although the labor market also hit a 'soft patch' along with most of the rest of the economy during the spring and early summer, it now appears to be strengthening, at least a little, again," Wood wrote in a research note.

Still, analysts responded with some caution. Applications would have to fall below 375,000 to signal healthy job growth, a level not seen since February. And other data show the economy is struggling to grow.

The Federal Reserve warned this week that the U.S. economy could be in for two years of weak growth.

A dimmer outlook in the U.S. and growing worries Europe may not be able to contain its debt crisis have shaken global markets. The Dow has lost nearly 1,600 points, or more than 12 percent, since July 22.

Some analysts worry that market turmoil could spook investors and consumers, causing them to take fewer risks and cut back further on spending.

That would stunt economic growth at a critical time. Businesses might decide to delay hiring plans.

"The recent plunge in stock prices could discourage business investment and hiring in coming months," said Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities. "If it does, then initial claims may reverse the recent improvement. Nevertheless, for the moment, the data suggest that the economy entered the third quarter on a more positive note after the unexpected second quarter slowdown."

The economy added 117,000 jobs in July, the government said last week. That was an improvement from the previous two months. But it's far below the average of 215,000 jobs per month that companies created from February through April.

Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the decline in unemployment benefit applications shows the job market is at least not getting worse.

"Of course, it tells us nothing about hiring, which the market turmoil of recent weeks will not have helped," Dales said.

Four-month low in unemployment claims eases fears 08/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2011 7:01am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.