As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of workers seeking unemployment benefits continued to sit near five-year lows as first-time applicants for unemployment claims decreased by 6,000 to 331,000 during the week ending August 24. The four-week average ticked up by 750 to 331,250. The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits sat near 4.5 million for the week ending August 10, about 30,000 more than the previous week.
Though the average number of layoffs has fallen by 10 percent this year, most companies are not yet hiring in significant numbers. But fewer layoffs can still increase net job gains even with a lack of substantial hiring. Employers have added an average of 192,000 jobs per month in 2013, enough to bring the unemployment rate down to 7.4 percent.
The pace of economic growth is not positively impacting hiring either, even as the economy expanded at an annual pace of 2.5 percent during Q2. Estimates for Q3 growth do not show it picking up much leading into the end of the year. Currently growing sectors, housing and manufacturing, are showing signs of weakening as interest rates rise. Sales of new houses also fell in July to their lowest levels in nine months.
A slowed housing recovery means fewer constructions jobs and the number of pending home sales also took a dive in July. This means final sales will probably slow over the next few months. Orders for long-lasting goods declined as businesses cut back on orders for computers, electrical equipment, and other high-priced items.