US unemployment claims fall slightly
by Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics Writer
September 20, 2012 09:06 AM | 462 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, photo, job seekers fill out applications at a construction job fair in New York. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market. The Labor Department said Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 that the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 370,250.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, photo, job seekers fill out applications at a construction job fair in New York. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at a seasonally adjusted 374,000, suggesting slow improvement in the job market. The Labor Department said Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 that the four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 370,250.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
slideshow

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week to a seasonally adjusted 382,000. The level suggests hiring remains weak.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications declined by 3,000 from the previous week, which was revised up. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose for the fifth straight week to 377,750, the highest level in nearly three months.

Applications were skewed higher two weeks ago by the fallout from Hurricane Isaac. A Labor Department spokesman said there were no special factors last week.

Weekly applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they consistently top 375,000, it typically suggests hiring is too weak to lower the unemployment rate.

Employers added only 96,000 jobs last month, below the 141,000 in July and much lower than the average 226,000 added in the first three months of the year. Recent job gains are barely enough to keep up with the growth of the working age population and aren't enough to rapidly drive down unemployment.

The unemployment rate dropped in August to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, but only because the number of people working or looking for work fell.

A separate monthly report from the Labor Department earlier this month showed that layoffs were at the lowest level in July in the 11 years the government has tracked the data.

The economy isn't growing fast enough to support much more hiring. It grew at a tepid 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from 2 percent in the January-March quarter and 4.1 percent in the final three months of last year.

Growth isn't likely to get much better for the rest of this year. Economists expect it to grow at a roughly 2 percent pace. That's typically too weak to create enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate.

High unemployment and sluggish growth prompted the Federal Reserve to announce several major steps to boost the economy last week. Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed will buy $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities a month until there is "substantial" improvement in the job market.

Bernanke said at a news conference that high unemployment is "a grave concern" that causes "enormous suffering."



Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides