clear
Friday September 4th, 2015 6:25AM

Jobless aid applications at 5-year low

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted to a five-year low last week, a hopeful sign the job market may be improving. But much of the decline reflects seasonal volatility in the data.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since January 2008, just after the recession began.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 359,250.

The applications data can be uneven in January. Job cuts typically spike in the second week of the month as retailers, restaurants and other companies lay off temporary workers hired for the winter holidays.

The department seasonally adjusts the numbers to account for such trends, but the data can still be choppy.

Last week, the layoffs weren't as large as expected, a department spokesman said. That caused a steep drop in the seasonally adjusted data.

The broader trend will become clearer in the coming weeks. Applications were declining slightly at the end of last year, pushing the four-week average to a four-year low in the last week of December.

The applications figures "suggest the labor market is getting better, the issue remains the extent of the improvement," said Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Overall, applications remain at a level that suggests employers are hiring at a slow but steady pace. Applications fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 for most of last year. At the same time, employers added an average of 153,000 jobs a month.

That's just been enough to slowly push down the unemployment rate, which fell 0.7 percentage points last year to 7.8 percent.

Employers added 155,000 jobs last month, nearly matching the average for the year. December's steady job gain suggests employers didn't cut back on hiring in the midst of the debate over the tax and spending changes known as the fiscal cliff. Many economists feared that the prospect of higher taxes and steep cuts in federal spending would cause a slowdown in job gains.

That's a good sign, since more budget showdowns are expected. Congress must vote to raise the government's $16.4 trillion borrowing limit by sometime between mid-February and early March. If not, the government risks defaulting on its debt. Republicans will likely demand deep spending cuts as the price of raising the debt limit.

More than 5.8 million people received unemployment aid in the week ended Dec. 29, the latest data available. That's about 465,000 more than the previous week. The figure includes about 2 million people who receive extended benefits paid for by the federal government. The rest receive aid under state unemployment programs, which usually last 26 weeks.

The overall economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the July-September quarter. But economists believe activity slowed considerably in the October-December quarter to a rate below 2 percent or less, in part because companies cut back on restocking.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Biden says 2016 bid will hinge on whether he and his family have 'emotional energy' to run
ATLANTA (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says he is unsure if he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination, saying his decision will hinge on whether he and his family have the "emotional energy...
3:33AM ( 2 hours ago )
Domestic dispute sees Gainesville baby abandoned on Rabbittown roadway
Two Gainesville residents involved in a domestic dispute were arrested Thursday afternoon after they abandoned their baby on the side of a Rabbittown road.
8:37PM ( 9 hours ago )
Report: Dog charged police, prompting gunfire in wrong home
A dog charged police officers who entered the wrong Atlanta home searching for a burglar, prompting gunfire that seriously wounded an officer, injured the homeowner and killed the animal, according to a police report released Thursday.
6:43PM ( 11 hours ago )
Settlement reached for one Hall Co. firefighter injured in 2014 training accident
One of the Hall County firefighters injured in a training accident in July 2014 has reached a settlement with Sutphen Corporation, the company who manufactured the ladder truck that malfunctioned in the accident.
2:52PM ( 15 hours ago )
Ga. students perform better on SAT, national average drops
The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) reported Thursday that Georgia students’ SAT scores for 2015 increased five points, even as the national average dropped seven points.
By AccessWDUN Staff
2:05PM ( 16 hours ago )