Latest U.S. Economic Data Are Mixed

By John S. McClenahen Coming in below most economists' expectations, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to 404,000 for the week ending June 21, some 22,000 fewer than the revised figure of 426,000 for the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department said on June 26. The department's four-week moving average for initial jobless claims, which smooths out week-to-week changes and is generally considered a better reflection of labor-market conditions, also declined. Last week it was 428,250, some 5,250 less than the previous week's revised average of 433,500. However, both the number of initial claims and the four-week average remain above the 400,000 mark, suggesting that the U.S. economy is not yet generating many jobs. What is clear from other data released on June 26 is that the economy was even more sluggish during the first three months of this year than previously thought. The U.S. Commerce Department's third and final figure for first-quarter 2003 U.S. GDP growth was a lackluster annual rate of 1.4%, less than earlier estimates of 1.6% and 1.9% and matching the 1.4% slow growth rate in the final quarter of 2002.

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