Friday, February 11, 2011

National news: New unemployment claims, worker pay, U.S. trade gap

Just about every major newspaper mentioned it yesterday: The number of new claims for unemployment insurance declined to a level not seen since July 2008. During the week ending Feb. 4th, new applicants totaled 383,000 (seasonally adjusted) -- a drop of 36,000 from the week prior.

If you read these reports as often as I do, you know that the week-to-week change in number of new claims is a somewhat volatile measure. In fact, at nearly this time last month we reported pretty much the same story. So you might be left to wonder how positive this info is, if the number of new claims moves around from week to week.

That's a fair question.

A better approach is to perhaps look at the long-run trend, or at how the average number of claims is moving. If we look at the numbers over the last several months, we can see that a gradual downward trend began at the end of 2010. We can also compare the current figure to the highs reached during the heat of the recession: In March 2009, the number of new applications in a single week hit an all-time high of 651,000. Thus by both measures we see that last week's news is likely a good sign. Things are improving.

If you want to know more about this bit of news, you can read the AP article as printed in the Washington Post or the New York Times; a piece by Bloomberg news; the story from the Business section of the Wall Street Journal; or the Huffington Post; or CNN; or....many others!

Speaking of the Wall Street Journal: They published an article just this morning with their predictions on worker pay in 2011. They expect it to increase during the year, perhaps by as much as 3 percent. Can companies afford it? How would pay raises affect inflation? Check out the full article.

We also mentioned CNN: They ran an article this morning on the U.S. trade gap. It increased from November to December to its widest difference in more than a year. The change was generally in line with expectations. The original story has lots more info.

1 comment:

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