The U.S. Economy Still Isn't Generating Jobs

By John S. McClenahen Both short and longer-term data continue to show initial claims for unemployment insurance running above the 400,000 mark, a sign that the U.S. economy is not creating a significant number of new jobs. Last week initial claims totaled 402,000, says the U.S. Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration. And while that number was 25,000 below the revised figure of 427,000 for the week ending March 15, it's at least 50,000 higher than the level that would signal the beginning of some serious job generation. The Labor Department's four-week moving average for initial jobless claims, which many economists believe is a better indicator of labor market trends, remained well above 400,000 last week. The average was 422,500, down just 4,000 from the previous week. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department has confirmed an earlier estimate and says the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of only 1.4% in the final quarter of last year. The more pessimistic among economic forecasters don't foresee GDP increasing much faster in the current quarter. Indeed, often-bullish Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, is projecting just 1% growth for the three months that end on Monday.

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