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Front Page » December 5, 2002 » Local News » Unemployment claims dip, while consumer confidence level ...
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Unemployment claims dip, while consumer confidence level climbs

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The number of Utahns filing for unemployment insurance benefits decreased lightly last month, while consumer confidence climbed at locations across the United States.

Ending Nov. 23, the four-week average of initial unemployment insurance claims filed in Utah registered at 2,328. The figure represents a decrease of 1 percent compared to last year's 2,303. The number of all initial claims for week totaled 2,951. Weeks claimed by unemployed Utahns numbered 18,249, increasing 6 percent from 17,198 last year.

As waves of immigrants flock into the U.S., Utah is proving to be one of the most powerful magnets. The state ranks fifth in the country in terms of immigrant population growth, reports the Urban Institute.

The Beehive State's immigrant population expanded 171 percent during the last decade, according to the 2000 Census. Utah follows directly behind the top growth states: North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada and Arkansas, noted the institute.

Stuck in low gear in the spring, the U.S. economy lurched ahead at a brisk 4 percent rate in the summer, a stronger performance than the federal government previously estimated, pointed out the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

The latest reading on gross domestic product showed the nationwide economy expanding at a faster pace in third quarter than the 3.1 percent rate projected a month ago, reported the U.S. Commerce Department.

Stronger inventory building by businesses, more robust spending by the government and an improved trade picture represented the major contributing to the upward boost to the third quarter gross domestic product.

Total jobless claims dropped sharply nationwide for the second consecutive week to the lowest level in nearly two years, indicated the U.S. Labor Department. But the federal agency pointed out that new claims tend to be more volatile during the holiday season. Unemployment insurance filings reached 385,750 for the four-week period.

Nearly one million jobless workers throughout the nation will lose unemployment benefits shortly after Christmas. The U.S. Congress was unable to extend the date due to disputes between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. Congress approved a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who had been affected by the economic downturn. The extensions will start to expire Dec. 28, immediately impacting 830,000 unemployed Americans.

Consumer confidence rose in November for the first time in six months, noted the Conference Board. The New York-based research group indicated that the board's consumer confidence index rose to 84.1 from 79.6 in October for the first increase since May.

Consumer spending rebounded nationwide in October, led by purchases of services and non-durable goods, according to a recently released government report. But income growth slowed.

The 0.4 percent increase in spending followed a 0.4 percent decrease in September, noted the U.S. Commerce Department. Incomes edged up 0.1 percent in October, the weakest level in three months, after rising 0.4 percent in September.

Durable goods orders climbed in October for the first time in three months, led by increased bookings for automobiles and communications equipment, reported the U.S. Commerce Department. Orders for big-ticket items made to last at least three years rose 2.8 percent.

Sales at online retailers in the U.S. rose, posting the best year-over-year performance since first quarter 2001, added the U.S. Commerce Department.

The federal agency's report on e-commerce trends indicated that online sales climbed 7.8 percent from the total posted during second quarter. Compared with last year's third quarter data, e-commerce activity jumped 34.3 percent for the largest gain since the first three months of 2001, when online sales rose 42 percent.

Purchases of previously owned homes jumped 6.1 percent in October to the third highest monthly level on record as Americans scrambled to take advantage of low mortgage rates, according to the National Association of Realtors. The real estate activity tied with April as the third highest monthly level on record.

Purchases of new homes slipped nationwide in October from the record-setting September pace, dipping 4.5 percent. But real estate sales remained strong as American consumers continued to be wooed by low mortgage interest rates, noted the U.S. Commerce Department.

As health insurance premiums continue to climb at the fastest clip experienced in a decade, more Americans across all income levels have opted to forego medical coverage.

Growth in the number of uninsured hit the wealthy and the poor about equally last year.

While the working poor make up the biggest chunk of the 41.2 million Americans lacking health care coverage, 811,000 individuals with household incomes exceeding $75,000 joined the ranks of the uninsured last year. The number brings the mid-income group's total on uninsured to 6.6 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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