TOPICS > Economy

Jobs Claims Down, Hopeful Economic News on America’s Heaviest Travel Day

BY Travis Daub  November 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM EDT

Stephanie Stanford looks for work at a job fair in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. ; Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At the same time, high unemployment and general job insecurity caused many Americans to curtail Thanksgiving air travel plans yet cheaper means of transportation are expected to see a revival in popularity this year.

Employers are still cutting jobs, just fewer than they have been. Last week saw 466,000 Americans file for jobless benefits. The week before, 501,000 workers applied.

That was enough to inspire hope in some economists.

“Lately there have been concerns about the strength of the economic recovery and I think these numbers will help restore confidence to some degree,” Carmine Grigoli, a strategist for Mizuho Securities USA in New York, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, personal incomes and spending rose slightly in October, according to the Commerce Department.

Workers collectively took home $30.1 billion more in October than they did in September, an increase of about 0.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Consumer spending rose 0.7 percent in October, and sales of durable goods were up 0.2 over the month before.

September saw a drop off in spending, which the Commerce Department blamed on the end of the government’s Cash for Clunkers program.

But a drop in durable goods sales suggest a still-struggling economy, analysts warned.

“Durables did come in weaker relative to expectations. It is the second drop in three months and it does appear that momentum in manufacturing is weakening as we move into the end of the year,” Kenneth Kim, of Stone and McCarthy Research Associates, told Reuters.

“The manufacturing sector bears close watching since it is considered a forward indicator for the economy.”

Rechard Dekaser, president of Woodley Park Research, added: “I don’t think there’s any sugarcoating this. The improvement we’ve seen in recent months for the outlay of capital goods has been unsteady and tentative. It is waiting for a recovery to be more established. we are putting a floor; it’s very intermittent.”

Insecurity about the economy, combined with a new level of unemployment convinced many Americans to forgo the airport for the Thanksgiving holiday and opt for cars, buses or staying home.

After the recession began in 2008, Thanksgiving travel plummeted 25 percent. This year’s level is expected to rise about 1.4 percent from last year, according to an AAA prediction based on a survey of 1,300 households.

An estimated 38 million people are expected to travel this holiday, compared with roughly 58 million in 2005 when the economy was better.