Friday, May 07, 2004

Filings by US Jobless Plunge; Productivity Up in Quarter

This is excellent news, even if we've had to wait an exceedingly long while to hear it; it also means one less headache for the Bush administration to worry about come election day. I can only conclude that the forthcoming election will revolve around one issue alone: the ongoing situation in Iraq.

WASHINGTON, May 6 (AP) - The productivity of American companies rose solidly in the first quarter of this year, and new filings for unemployment benefits plunged last week to their lowest level in more than three years, according to government reports released Thursday.

The Labor Department reported that productivity - the amount an employee produces for every hour on the job - rose at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the January-to-March quarter, up from a 2.5 percent pace registered in the previous quarter. The number matched the forecasts of analysts.

In the quarter, companies increased output at a 4.9 percent rate, up from a 4.2 percent pace in the previous quarter. Workers' hours, meanwhile, rose at a 1.3 percent rate in the first quarter, after a 1.6 percent growth rate in the previous quarter.

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The economy grew at a 4.2 percent rate in the first quarter of this year, a slight improvement from the 4.1 percent pace registered in the previous quarter. Economists say the economy is expanding at about a 4.5 percent to 5 percent pace in the current quarter.

In a second report from the Labor Department, new applications filed for unemployment insurance dropped by a seasonally adjusted 25,000, to 315,000, for the week ended Saturday, the lowest level since Oct. 28, 2000. Economists had forecast claims to drop to about 335,000.

After months of sluggish payrolls gains, the economy added 308,000 jobs in March, the most in four years.