More seek unemployment aid, but trend is positive
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 377,000, up from a nearly four-year low the previous week. But the longer-term trend is pointing to a healthier job market. Applications have trended down over the past few months. The four-week average has declined to 377,500. When applications fall consistently below 375,000, it tends to signal that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate. Some economists say the figures suggest further job gains ahead. The nation has added at least 100,000 jobs for six straight months. And the unemployment rate has declined to 8.5%, the lowest in almost three years. Separately, orders for longlasting manufactured goods rose as companies spent more on computers, machinery and other equipment. The Commerce Department reports today durable goods orders rose 3% last month. The number of first-time unemployment applications rose 21,000 last week, the Labor Department says. Applications had plummeted two weeks ago to their lowest level since April 2008. The average has fallen about 9% since Oct. 1. Unemployment applications have been particularly volatile this month because employers have cut temporary workers hired for the holidays. The department adjusts for seasonal trends, but doing so accurately can be difficult. The Fed predicts the unemployment rate could fall as low as 8.2% by the end of the year while the economy will likely expand about 2.5%.
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