America

Latest Indicators: Jobless Claims Dip; Trade Gap Grows; Housing Starts Up

The number of people filing first-time claims for jobless benefits decreased by 3,000 last week, to 420,000, the Employment and Training Administration says.

Bloomberg News says that signals "a labor market that is on the mend" in part because the slight decline was unexpected and in part because claims have now dipped in three of the past four weeks.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Economic Analysis says the nation's deficit "on trade in goods and services" widened to $127.2 billion in the third quarter from $123.2 billion in the second quarter. The Associated Press thinks that could be good news because Americans' greater appetite for imports signals stronger consumer demand. The report also noted an increase in exports.

Finally, the Census Bureau reports that construction began on 3.9 percent more homes and apartment units in November than in October — though "housing starts" were still 5.8 percent below the November 2009 annual rate of 589,000.

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