Unemployment filings decrease across state
Ending Dec. 14, the four-week average of unemployment insurance initial claims filed at locations across Utah registered at 2,449, representing an 18 percent decrease from last year.
The number of all initial unemployment claims for the week totaled 2,411. Weeks claimed numbered 20,006, dropping by 12 percent from 2001, pointed out the latest Trendlines report compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Utah lawmakers have shifted $1 million from the state industrial assistance fund to a new job training initiative in anticipation of a "major economic development announcement" by Gov. Mike Leavitt, pointed out the Trendlines publication.
Leavitt's staff lobbied lawmakers to find the money while trying to keep details of the deal quiet. The governor requested $1.5 million in state funding for the initiative.
Leavitt refused to offer specific details regarding the deal, only indicating that the matter represented a cooperative venture between "medical infomatics" businesses and the state.
Utah legislators recently finished the fifth budget-cutting session of the year. The lawmakers scraped to find $117 million to cover additional shortfalls.
State revenue shortfalls have totaled more than $500 million since the Legislature passed the original 2002 budget last February, noted the Trendlines report. With the exception of education and programs for the poor, lawmakers basically distributed the budget cuts across state government.
At the national level, the United States Labor Department noted that the number of first-time jobless claims filed during the week ending Dec. 14 totaled 433,000. While the number was down 11,000 from the prior week, it remained above the 400,000 level that economists indicate signals stalled job prospects.
The U.S. economy posted a solid growth rate of 4 percent last summer. But concerns persist about how the economy is weakening in the final months of the year.
The increase in the gross domestic product, the nation's total output of goods and services, was powered by strong consumer spending, especially for big-ticket products like as cars, pointed out the U.S. Commerce Department.
Nevertheless, economists continue to worry that sales during the Christmas season have dropped off considerably and growth in the current October-December period will be at 2 percent or less, only half of the summer pace.
U.S. consumer prices inched up in November as falling costs for energy and clothing helped offset increases for medical care and food.
The consumer price index, the main U.S. inflation gauge, rose by 0.1 percent in November after advancing 0.3 percent in October.
The so-called core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, managed to climb 0.2 percent.
Designed to predict economic performance three to six months in the future, the New York-based Conference Board index of leading indicators jumped 0.7 percent in November, helped by higher stock prices and stronger consumer confidence.
The increase was the biggest gain posted since a 1.1 percent jump in December 2001.
The U.S. Federal Reserve reported that industrial production rose by 0.1 percent nationwide last month. Production picked up at makers of automobiles, electronics, appliances and other consumer goods.
Production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities last increased in July.
For the nation's economic recovery to gain strength, U.S. companies need to boost spending on equipment, indicated Federal Reserve officials.
But the federal agency's latest manufacturing report indicates that companies in the U.S. are not boosting equipment spending.
Business equipment production fell 0.4 percent in November after declining 0.7 percent in the prior month and 1.1 percent in September.
The U.S. trade deficit declined to $35.1 billion in October, the best showing in seven months.
However, the majority of the gain was attributed to the West Coast labor dispute, which sharply trimmed the level of imports, according to the department of workforce services latest Trendlines publication.
Home construction activity expanded across the nation in November, confirmed the U.S. Commerce Department.
Builders broke ground on new homes at an annual pace of 1.7 million units, up 2.4 percent from October.
Americans took advantage of falling interest rates and rising home values to extract $131.6 billion via mortgage refinancing in 2001 and early 2002, according to a study conducted and recently released by U.S. Federal Reserve economists.
While consumers spent part of the money, Americans saved or invested the majority of the revenues obtained via mortgage refinancing, concluded the latest Trendlines publication.