Job Loss Claims Fall, Trade Deficit Grows. Plus: A French Carbon Tax : Planet Money In the news today, more signs that the recession may be easing, and other signals from the world of economics.
NPR logo Job Loss Claims Fall, Trade Deficit Grows. Plus: A French Carbon Tax

Job Loss Claims Fall, Trade Deficit Grows. Plus: A French Carbon Tax

New claims for unemployment benefits fell by 26,000 last week, to 550,000, the Department of Labor reports. The four-week moving average fell by 2,750, to 570,000.

We're still far outside what economists consider a healthy range of 300,000 to 350,000 new weekly claims. The sheer duration of joblessness is becoming its own factor, driving the overall jobless rate upward even as new claims fall. People who've been laid off face a record-low number of openings and are beginning to exhaust their benefits.

As of August 29, some 6,088,000 million people were collecting unemployment benefits, down from 6,247,000 from the week before. As of August 22, another 3,102,877 people were receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a federally funded program that allows for 33 additional weeks of benefits in high-unemployment states. The emergency benefits rolls grew from 3,029,668 the week before.

Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit grew by 16.3 percent to $32 billion from June to July, the Commerce Department reports. If that looks like a big jump, it's because it is -- the biggest percentage jump in a decade, AP reports.

In a sign that consumer demand made something of a rebound, imports grew by 4.7 percent, the biggest increase since at least 1992. Exports also grew, by 2.2 percent. Part of the increase in imports came from rising oil prices, which pushes the dollar value of imports up. Also leading the way were imports of cars and car parts, with a 21.5 percent spike as Cash for Clunkers drew customers into showrooms and factories started production again.

After the jump, more headlines worth your attention.

President Obama defended his push for overhauling health care last night, telling Congress and the nation that he won't sign a plan that "adds one dime" to the federal deficit.

France is readying a carbon tax for 2010, to be paid by businesses and households alike.

Take your vitamins: The Economist looks at the changing money supply, in an analysis that's moderately technical and probably crucial.

Pow! Warner Brothers tightens its hold on DC Comics as it battles the new Disney/Marvel leviathan. Or maybe Warner's got its own reasons.

Calculated Risk urges deficit hawks to take a breath -- he says now is not the time to cut the federal debt load.