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New jobless claims tumble to 2-year low

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WASHINGTON – The number of new claims for US unemployment insurance tumbled last week to a two-year low, according to official data Thursday, offering hope for the troubled labor market.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 383,000 in the week ending February 5, down nearly nine percent from the prior week.

The department revised upward the previous week’s reading to 419,000, from an initial estimate of 415,000.

The 383,000 figure was the lowest since early July 2008, data showed.

The four-week moving average, a measurement to smooth out week-to-week volatility, also showed a positive trend for jobs: it fell to 415,000 from last week’s 431,500.

The sharp decline in new claims surprised most analysts, who had forecast a drop to 410,000, and lent strength to other recent data on payrolls and job creation that suggest a turnaround in the US job market.

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Last week the government reported that the unemployment rate fell to 9.0 percent from 9.4 percent, based both on the trend and on data adjustments.

At the same time, the number for newly created non-farm jobs was very low at 36,000 for the previous week. But that was blamed on harsh winter weather that shut businesses temporarily and prevented some data collection as well.

The severe storms of late January and early February continued to skew the numbers, a Labor Department official said Thursday.

“We are still unwinding a bit of the weather effect,” he told reporters.

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Despite signs that the US economic recovery is gaining pace, top government officials have warned that the slow pace of new job creation represents a continuing, crucial weakness.

The US economic recovery has “strengthened in recent months” and now looks self-sustaining, but is still not enough to significantly improve the job market, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional panel Thursday.

“Until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established,” he said.

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Governments must regulate social networks: Facebook’s Clegg

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Governments must regulate social networks and not the companies themselves, Facebook's head of global affairs and a former deputy prime minister of the UK said in an interview Monday.

"It's not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules. It is for democratic politicians in the democratic world to do so," Clegg told the BBC.

Clegg, the former leader of UK political party the Liberal Democrats, said there was a "pressing need" for new "rules of the road" on issues including data privacy and election rules.

At the same time, companies such as Facebook should play a "mature role" in advocating regulation, he told the BBC.

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Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis

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Paris aims to give visitors to the 2024 Paris Olympics a flying start by offering airborne taxis to tournament sites straight from the airport.

Arrivals in the City of Light currently face an hour-long haul by train or bus into town from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.

But if Aeroports de Paris (ADP), Airbus and the RATP regional transport have their way passengers, right after their jets have taxied to a halt on the runway, will be able to take to the air once again with a self-flying urban taxi of the future.

The firms used this past week's Paris Air Show to say the Olympics afforded the perfect opportunity to bring into service futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) machines, and that they would launch a feasibility study.

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Aussie watchdog readies clampdown on Google, Facebook

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Australia's competition watchdog is poised to call for far-reaching new regulations on Facebook, Google and other tech giants which could have global ramifications for how they make money and choose the content people consume.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's recommendations, if confirmed, would be among the strongest yet in a drive to rein in the power of digital behemoths amid a host of worldwide concerns ranging from anti-trust issues to privacy abuse, and their role in spreading disinformation and hateful content.

Following an 18-month inquiry into the power of digital platforms, the ACCC is due to issue its final report by June 30.

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