Economic digest: White House pushes for jobless aid extension

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 12:00 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is stepping up efforts to extend jobless benefits to long-term unemployed Americans, arguing that more than a million people will lose the assistance if it isn’t renewed by the end of the month, slowing economic growth.

In a report released Thursday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the Labor Department concluded that if Congress allows benefits, to expire 3.6 million people will lose access to the benefits by the end of 2014.

Democrats are pressing for legislation continuing a program in place since 2008 that gives federally paid benefits to jobless people after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out. Republicans in the GOP-controlled House oppose it.

“Despite ten consecutive quarters of GDP growth and 7.8 million private sector jobs added since early 2010, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high at 7.3 percent, and far too many families are still struggling to regain the foothold they had prior to the crisis,” the report states.

The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the Democratic legislation would cost $25 billion, stimulating the economy by 0.2 percent next year and creating 200,000 jobs. Other estimates say the benefits would stimulate the economy by 0.4 percent.

The report challenges studies cited by Republicans that the benefits have depressed job creation since 2008 because it forces companies to increase wages to keep and attract workers.

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.6 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest since early 2012. But nearly half the growth came from a buildup in business stockpiles, a trend that could reverse in the current quarter and hold back growth.

The Commerce Department’s second estimate of third-quarter growth released Thursday was sharply higher than the initial 2.8 percent rate reported last month. And it was well above the 2.5 percent growth rate for the April-June quarter.

Almost the entire third-quarter revision came from a big jump in stockpiles. Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the economy, was the weakest in nearly four years. When excluding inventories, the economy grew at a 1.9 percent rate in the third quarter, down from 2.1 percent in the spring.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled 23,000 last week to 298,000, nearly a six-year low that shows companies are laying off fewer workers.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the less volatile four-week moving average declined 10,750 to 322,250.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories received fewer orders in October, as aircraft demand fell and businesses cut back on computers. The decline suggests companies were hesitant to invest during the 16-day partial government shutdown.

Factory orders dropped 0.9 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That followed a 1.8 percent increase in September.

Core capital goods, which are a proxy for business investment, dropped 0.6 percent, the second straight decline.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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