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Mixed News For U.S. Economy

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 305,000, the second-lowest level in six years.

Frances Perkins Building, home to the US Department of Labor
Frances Perkins Building, home to the US Department of Labor (Wikicommons)

Steady declines in applications show that very few companies are laying off workers.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week average declined 7,000 to 308,000, the lowest since June 2007.

All states reported their first-time applications on time, a department spokesman said. Applications plummeted three weeks ago because computer upgrades in California and Nevada prevented them from fully reporting their data. Those states have cleared their backlogs, the spokesman said.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. Fewer layoffs suggest employers are confident enough to maintain their staffing levels. But companies have been reluctant to take the next step and ramp up hiring.

US economy grew at 2.5 percent rate in spring

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate from April through June, an improvement from the first three months of the year. But economists are worried that growth may now be slowing.

The Commerce Department says its final look at economic growth in the spring was unchanged from a prior estimate made last month. However, the components of growth were altered slightly.

Businesses added a bit less to their stockpiles and exports did not grow as fast as previously thought. These downward revisions were balanced by slightly stronger spending by state and local governments.

Many analysts believe growth is slowing to a sluggish rate at or below 2 percent in the current quarter. Economists had initially hoped growth would improve in the second half of the year.

US pending home sales fall for 3rd straight month

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans signed contracts to buy U.S. homes in August, the third straight decline. The drop could mean that higher mortgage rates are starting to deter buyers.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales declined 1.6 percent to 107.7 last month. The index has fallen for three straight months after reaching a 6 ½-year high in May.

Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May. That caused many buyers to speed up purchases this summer, pushing sales of previously owned homes to the highest level in over six years in August.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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