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Claims for jobless benefits climb in state while national average drops

By Sun Advocate

Ending Sept. 21, the four-week average of initial unemployment insurance claims filed across Utah registered at 1,761.
The total represents an increase of 9 percent compared to the 1,622 claims filed last year.
The number of all initial claims totaled filed statewide totaled 1,740. Weeks claimed numbered 16,964, increasing by 23 percent from last year, according to the latest Trendlines report released by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Recently compiled nationwide data ranked Utah in 45th place among the 50 states in per-person income in 2001.
Revised estimates released by the United States Commerce Department indicated average per-capita income in Utah registered at $24,180, up 3 percent from $23,476 in 2000.
Economists have long said the main reason Utah ranks low in per-person income is that its residents tend to have larger-than-average families. That means wage earners in Utah tend to support more children than elsewhere.
Occupancy at hotels in Utah averaged 71 percent compared to 72 percent a year ago, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging report.
Intermountain Power Agency’s plans to build a thirdgeneration unit at the have been pushed back a year, to 2008. A non-binding survey has indicated that the proposed 900-megawatt project will be fully subscribed. Interested parties have put up money to get the paperwork rolling, a next major step – expected to occur next spring, pointed out workforce services.
At the national level, the U.S. economy fared better than previously thought during second quarter, indicated workforce services. But the economy still suffered an abrupt slowdown compared to the early part of 2002, pointed out the U.S. Commerce Department.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, rose at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in second quarter.
Even though the growth rate was revised up for the April-June quarter, it was still far slower than the 5 percent growth rate recorded in the first three months of the year.
The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for state unemployment benefits decreased nationwide.
Initial jobless applications dropped by 24,000 to 406,000 in the week ending Sept. 21, indicated the U.S. Labor Department.
Nevertheless, the designated time period was the fifth week in a row for claims to total more than 400,000.
The four-week moving average of first-time claims, a less volatile indicator, fell to 419,000 from 420,000 the prior week.
Nationwide, the number of people who have been jobless for long periods has climbed to the highest level recorded since 1994. Almost 1.5 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, up 80 percent from a year ago, added the U. S. Department of Labor. Especially hard hit are workers in telecom and tech, two fast-growth industries of the 1990s that have suffered unprecedented downturns.
A key gauge of economic activity across the United States fell for the third straight month in August.
The New York-based Conference Board reported that the panel’s index of leading economic indicators dropped 0.2 percent to 111.8, after falling a revised 0.1 percent in July.
The index measures where the overall U.S. economy is headed in the next three to six months, explained the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Weaker military demand pushed U.S. durable goods orders down in August. But the drop was smaller than expected and a rise in capital goods orders offered a glimmer of hope a long-lasting business investment slump may be nearing an end, explained the state agency.
Orders for durable goods -costly manufactured items intended to last at least three years – fell 0.6 percent last month after a downwardly revised 8.6 percent rise in July, pointed out the U.S. Commerce Department. The U.S. poverty rate rose for the first time in eight years and household income fell last year.
There were 32.9 million Americans living in poverty last year, up from 31.6 million in 2000, confirmed the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate of 11.7 percent was up from 11.3 percent the previous year, which was the lowest level since 1974.
The median household income in 2001 declined 2.2 percent to $42,228 for the second consecutive decrease, according to the bureau.
U.S. Federal Reserve policy makers voted keep interest rates steady, citing a weak economy and “heightened geopolitical risks” that may make matters worse, pointed out workforce services.
Consumer confidence fell for the fourth-consecutive month in September, slipping to its lowest level since November, indicated the conference board.
The board’s consumer confidence index dropped to 93.3 from a revised 94.5 in August.
Federal economists pointed out that pessimism about the present situation is probably a sign consumers are worried not just about jobs, but about the political and military tension over a possible war with Iraq.
Sales of new U.S. homes at locations throughout the United States rose to a record level in August.
As low interest rates fueled the appetite for home buying in American consumers, explained the federal govern-ment’s economists.
Sales of new single-family houses climbed 1.9 percent nationwide.
Sales of previously owned homes dipped by 1.7 percent in August, according to the National Association of Realtors. Even with the decline, existing-home sales are on track to set a record for related transactions in 2002.
Long-term mortgage rates fell for the seventh consecutive week. Decreasing rates set yet another new low, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.
The latest decrease represents the ninth time in 2002 that mortgage rates have hit lows.
Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 5.99 percent in the week ending Sept. 27.
U.S. oil prices climbed to a 19-month high as dealers took fright at the growing threat of an American military assault on Iraq, concluded the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

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