Jobless Claims Down, Consumer Spending Up

Initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 17,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted figure of 320,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Dec. 1. Confirming a stable job market, the department's four-week moving average of initial claims also declined. For the week ending Nov. 26, the average was 322,500, a decrease of 1.250 claims from the previous week's revised average of 323,750.

Personal income, disposable personal income and personal spending all rose in October, although not as quickly as in September, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Dec. 1. Personal spending, estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $9.2 trillion in October, exceeded disposable personal income, estimated at an annual rate of $9.15 trillion, the fifth consecutive month that imbalance has occurred. But Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business, expects to see a slowdown in consumer spending in 2006. "Retailers will likely see a 6% increase in holiday sales over last year -- more than retail analysts predicted -- but January credit card bills will cause consumers to sober up and trim purchases for the spring."

The Commerce Department also reported on Dec. 1 that construction spending during October of this year was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.13 trillion, seven tenths of a percentage point higher than September's revised rate of $1.12 trillion. Spending on private construction was at a rate of $877.8 billion in October, three-tenths percent higher than September's rate. Public construction spending was at an annual rate of $254 billion in October, 1.9% higher than September's rate.

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