Economy

Unemployment Claims Drop; Trade Deficit Narrows

We have two pieces of good news on the economic front:

Bloomberg reports: "The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in September to the lowest level this year as exports surged to a record high."

The AP reports: "The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell to the lowest level since April, a sign that employers could be stepping up hiring."

Those trade numbers mean that U.S. exports are up. According to the Commerce Department, that number climbed from $177.9 billion to $180.4 billion in September. That's a 1.4 percent increase.

The AP explains what a narrowing could mean:

A higher deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means fewer jobs for American workers. However, with the deficit falling for the last three months, that could provide a small boost to growth in the July-September quarter.

The deficit with China narrowed slightly to $28.1 billion September after setting an all-time high at $29 billion in August. Even with the 3.1 percent drop, the September deficit was still the third highest on record. The deficit with China so far this year is still on track to set a record as the highest imbalance the United States has ever recorded with a single country, surpassing last year's record.

In its story Bloomberg talks to experts who throw more cold water on the number saying they don't expect this narrowing to continue into next year.

As for the unemployment numbers, the AP reports that the four-week average also fell to its lowest level since April. And while the modest growth "has helped calm recession fears," the number of weekly unemployment applications should drop below 375,000 "to signal sustained job gains."

The AP reports that number hasn't been at that level since February.

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