First-time claims for jobless benefits down slightly
Unemployed people use computers to search for jobs as well as telephones to seek out unemployment insurance benefits in Las Vegas.
(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
By Jia Lynn Yang
The number of U.S. workers filing for unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week and productivity at businesses dropped for the first time in eight quarters, according to government statistics released Thursday, reflecting an economic recovery that continues to stall.
First-time jobless claims fell for the second straight week, down by 6,000 to 472,000, but the figure remains stubbornly high. The number of claims has been hovering just below 500,000 for roughly nine months.
The Labor Department also reported that U.S. productivity dropped 1.8 percent in the second quarter, twice what the government initially estimated. Lower productivity means higher labor costs, potentially putting a dent in corporate profits that have benefited from high productivity.
There was some good news from retailers, however. Stores showed a small burst of activity from the back-to-school shopping season. Sales at Kohl's were up 4.5 percent, Limited Brands rose 10 percent, and Gap sales were unchanged.
In other figures released Thursday morning, orders at U.S. factories rose 0.1 percent, suggesting companies remain hesitant to spend money and invest in equipment. Orders for machinery and computers were down.
The economy remains hampered by high unemployment, which is at 9.5 percent. The government's monthly jobs report comes out Friday. The jobless figure is expected to rise to 9.6 percent.
Officials continue to grapple with how to breathe more life into the economic recovery. Wednesday, departing White House chief economist Christina Romer called on Congress to provide more stimulus through tax cuts and government spending on infrastructure.
Jia Lynn Yang
September 2, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
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