New Jobless Claims Fall, Manufacturing Orders Rise
The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims
dropped to a seasonally adjusted 623,000, down from a revised figure of 636,000
and below estimates of 635,000.
A drop hints that companies are cutting fewer workers and
could be a sign that the recession is bottoming out. The four-week average,
used to average out fluctuations, was also down to 626,750, about 30,000 below
the number in April. A year ago, initial claims were 378,000.
However, the 6.78 million people that continue receive unemployment
in the week ending on May 16 is the largest total since 1967 and the 17th
straight record week. These continuing claims lag one week behind the new
The next round of nationwide unemployment numbers is due out
from the Labor Department on June 5.
Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, a net
total of 5.7 million jobs have been lost and the unemployment rate rose to 8.9
percent in April.
Meanwhile, orders for big-ticket manufactured goods rose by
1.9 percent in April, the largest amount in 16 months, according to a Commerce
A rise of new orders in two of the past three months
followed a decline in the previous six. But, the report did revise down its
March estimate of new orders for manufactured goods from a 0.8 percent drop
previously reported to a 2.1 percent drop.
The Commerce Department also said Thursday that new U.S.
home sales were almost flat in April, rising 0.3 percent but down 34 percent
from April 2008. The median sales price fell to $209,700, down 14.9 percent
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported a record high of
12 percent of homeowners are behind on their payments or in foreclosure in the
first quarter of 2009.
In a survey of economists by the National Association for
Business Economics, more than 90 percent predicted that the recession will end
in the third or fourth quarter of 2009, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier in the week, a report found that consumer confidence
rose considerably in May to its highest level in eight months. The index rose
to 54.9 from 40.8 in April. In 1985, the index was at 100.
“Looking ahead, consumers are considerably less
pessimistic than they were earlier this year, and expectations are that
business conditions, the labor market and incomes will improve in the coming
months. While confidence is still weak by historical standards, as far as
consumers are concerned, the worst is now behind us,” said Lynn Franco, director
of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center that publishes the survey.