The drop pushed new unemployment claims below the 350,000 level that economists normally associate with sustained strength in the labor market. Claims have declined for three weeks in a row.
MORE JOBS: Job gains have exceeded 200,000 for two consecutive months, and the unemployment rate dropped to a three-year low of 8.3 percent in January. Economists are cautiously optimistic that February will be another month of solid job gains.
ANOTHER BOOST: More jobs and tame inflation are giving consumers more buying power. Their higher spending could further boost growth and lower the unemployment rate for February for a sixth consecutive month.
NO WORK: About 23.8 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed, and there are no job openings for nearly three out of every four unemployed.
HIGHS ALL AROUND: The Dow Jones industrial average, Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq composite all notched their highest closes of 2012 on Thursday.
NEARING 13,000: The Dow closed at its highest level since May 19, 2008 – four months before the financial crisis imploded.
RECORD PROFIT: General Motors Co. earned $7.6 billion last year, the biggest profit in the automaker’s history. GM shares closed up $2.24 at $27.17.
THEY’RE GOING UP: Builders broke ground in January on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000 homes, the Commerce Department said. That nearly matches November’s three-year high. Single-family home construction cooled off slightly after a big jump in December.
Single-family home construction rose over the final three months of 2011 to its highest level in a year and a half. The steady, if modest, gains have made builders more confident about their prospects than they’ve been in nearly five years.
Construction of single-family homes did slip in January. But builders requested permits for those homes at the fastest rate in a year. That shows that many anticipate more buyers over the next 12 months – roughly the time it takes to build a single-family home once a permit is obtained.
ANOTHER BOOST: Home building is expected to add to economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.
BAD TREND: Foreclosure filings for the Augusta metro area jumped in January, mirroring the trend in Georgia and nationwide.