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Front Page » September 4, 2003 » Local News » Unemployment benefit filings dip, while consumer confiden...
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Unemployment benefit filings dip, while consumer confidence climbs

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Consumer confidence appears to be rebounding across the United States. But local and state residents continue to struggle to recover from the financial impacts associated a repressed economy, especially displaced workers.

Ending Aug. 23, the four-week average of unemployment insurance initial claims filed at locations throughout the state registered at 1,582, confirms the latest data compiled by the Utah Department of Workforce.

The number represents a 3 percent increase from last year's figure. All initial filings posted statewide totaled 1,710 and weeks claimed numbered 16,737, dropping 7 percent from last year.

At the federal level, the United States Labor Department indicated that initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits climbed 3,000 to reach 394,000 nationwide.

The seven-day period ending Aug. 23 marked the fourth consecutive week when the early read on the resilience of the labor market registered below the key 400,000 mark.

The federal agency viewed the situation as a sign of an improving U.S. job market.

On a more positive note, the gross domestic product expanded at a 3.1 percent rate during the last quarter, confirmed the U.S. Commerce Department.

The growth followed the anemic 1.4 percent rate posted during the two prior quarters. Defense spending surged 45.9 percent for the strongest gain posted since third quarter 1951 during the Korean War.

In addition, the confidence displayed by American consumers bounced back in August after dipping in July, noted the Conference Board. The New York-based private research group's consumer confidence index rose to 81.3 in August, up 4.3 points from July's level.

U.S. Manufacturers witnessed demand for big-ticket products rise for the second straight month in - manufactured products expected to last at least three years - went up a solid 1 percent in July, on top of June's 2.6 percent gain, noted the U.S. Commerce Department.

The labor market and consumer confidence pictures may appear brighter, but motorists are encountering record level prices at fuel pumps nationwide.

The average Utah motorist currently pays $1.77 for one gallon of unleaded regular gasoline, according to the American Automobile Association.

The present costs shouldered by state and local residents stopping at the gas pumps represents the highest average level posted in Utah since AAA started recording motor fuel prices nearly 30 years ago, pointed out the department of workforce services.

Carbon County residents and Utahns who are refueling motor vehicles are assuming a greater financial burden than motorists nationwide.

On the national scene, the average retail price on purchasing regular-grade gasoline at the self-serve pumps shot up to $1.75 per gallon, the highest level ever posted nationwide, indicated the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The previous $1.73 per gallon peak price posted across the nation was recorded on March 17, explained the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

On a more positive note, sales of existing private residences in Utah experienced the highest July level reported in 25 years.

But consumers who rushed to refinance mortgages at low interest rates are finding that application volumes are choking the nationwide financing system

As a result, the rate locks people counted on to protect against rising expenses may expire before loans close, explained the latest workforce services Trendlines report.

Dipping new home sales accompanied rising mortgage rates nationwide in July.

Nevertheless, the American real estate industry managed to post the second best month on record in July, pointed out the U.S. Commerce Department.

Single-family home sales edged down to an annual 1.17 million rate, declining 2.9 percent compared to June's record high 1.2 million pace.

However, sales of existing private residences in the U.S. were up 5 percent and hit a record high 6.12 million single-family units in July, noted the National Association of Realtors. June's rate registered at 5.83 million.

On a negative note, the federal government is heading toward a record $480 billion deficit in 2004, indicates a budget analysis conducted by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office.

In addition, the U.S. government will rack up almost $1.4 trillion in red ink during the next decade.

The budget office analysis estimates that the federal deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 will register at $401 billion. The figure represents a significant increase when compared to the $290.4 billion red ink record set by the United States government in 1992.

Addressing an employment issue impacting all working Americans, the latest gender wage study suggests that the forces underlying the salary gap between men and women in the U.S. labor force might depress pay for male or female managers.

Even when fewer than half the workers supervised were female, managers made $1,000 or $2,000 less a year than employees leading all male groups.

When the majority of the supervised workers were female, manager wages dropped steeply. Having more female peers or supervisors also depressed a manager's pay, according to the study.

On the opposite side of the wage spectrum, the average chief executive officer's salary jumped 44 percent in 2002 at the 50 firms in the U.S. reporting the most layoffs during the 2001 recession, indicated a report drafted by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

The typical CEO drew a $3.7 million salary, compared to the $5.1 million wage paid the 50 leading layoff firms in the U.S.

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