US Reports Give Mixed Economic Signals

Posted August 16th, 2012 at 10:10 am (UTC-5)
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Two new U.S. economic reports are giving mixed signals about the American labor market and the country's weak housing construction industry.

The government reported Thursday that initial claims for unemployment assistance increased by 2,000 last week to 366,000. However, the four-week average dipped below 364,000, the lowest figure since March and the second lowest in more than four years.

For 42 straight months, the country's jobless rate has remained above 8 percent, an unusually high level for the U.S. But economists say that when the claims for jobless benefits stay below the 375,000 level for an extended period, it usually means that employers are beginning to hire more workers.

In a separate report, the U.S. said that construction of new homes and apartments fell 1.1 percent in July from the previous month to an annual pace of 746,000. But it said that permits for new units jumped sharply to 812,000, the highest rate in four years.

Housing construction in the U.S. remains well below what analysts consider to be a healthy market — about 1.5 million new units a year.