Economy brightens as consumers spend, layoffs slow
WASHINGTON (AP) — Economic reports today suggest employers are laying off fewer workers, businesses are ordering more computers and appliances, and consumers are spending with more confidence.
The latest data confirm that the economy is improving, even though too few jobs are being created to lower the 9.8 percent unemployment rate.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits edged down by 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 420,000, the Labor Department said today. That was the second drop in three weeks.
Weekly unemployment applications at around 425,000 signal modest job growth. But economists say applications would need to dip consistently to 375,000 or below to indicate a significant decline in unemployment. Weekly applications peaked during the recession at 651,000 in March 2009.
The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 426,000. The average had fallen for six straight weeks to the lowest level in more than two years.