December 13, 2017

Claims for Jobless Benefits Rise

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped 20,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 362,000, though it remained at a level consistent with modest hiring.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 8,000 to 360,750, the highest in six weeks. A department spokesman said heavy snowstorms in the Northeast did not affect the total.

Applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, have trended downward recently. The four-week average has declined 7.5 percent since mid-November and fell to a five-year low three weeks ago.

Still, last week’s increase put applications back in the 360,000-to-390,000 range, where they have fluctuated since early last year.

At the same time, job growth has picked up. Employers added an average of 200,000 jobs a month from November through January. That was up from about 150,000 in the previous three months.

In January, the economy added 157,000 jobs, the government said this month. And revisions showed that employers added an average of 181,000 jobs a month last year, up from an earlier estimate of 153,000.

Still, the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in December. Economists think the rate will slowly decline if hiring continues at last year’s monthly pace of 180,000. The rate fell 0.7 percentage point in 2012.

Separately, the Labor Department said Thursday that consumer prices in the United States were flat last month, the latest sign that inflation is in check.

The Consumer Price Index has risen 1.6 percent in the 12 months ending in January. That’s down from a 2.9 percent pace a year ago.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.3 percent in January, pushed up by higher costs for apparel, airfares and rents. Core prices have risen 1.9 percent in the past year, below the Federal Reserve’s inflation target.

Inflation slowed dramatically last year. Consumer prices rose only 1.7 percent in 2012, down from 3 percent in 2011. Low inflation leaves consumers with more money to spend, which benefits the economy.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales rose 0.4 percent in January compared with December, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million.

That was the second-highest sales pace since November 2009, when a temporary home-buyer tax credit caused purchases to spike. The median price for a home sold in January was $173,600, an increase of 12.3 percent from a year ago.

Analysts say purchases would be higher if more homes were available. The supply of homes for sale dropped to nearly an eight-year low in January.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/business/economy/claims-for-jobless-benefits-rise.html?partner=rss&emc=rss