Unemployment claims fall to six-year low
WASHINGTON – Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, as the number of people collecting jobless aid fell to its lowest level in more than six years.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined to 311,750.
There are 2.56 million people receiving benefits. That’s the lowest total since October 2007, about two months before the recession began.
Airline ticket add-on fee for screenings set to rise
WASHINGTON – Airline passengers are about to pay more for security screening.
Following orders from Congress, the Transportation Security Administration is poised to raise the fee to $5.60 each way. That’s up from $2.50 each way for a nonstop flight and $5 for a trip including connections.
Trips with long stopovers – more than four hours on most domestic travel – will have bigger increases because each leg will trigger a new fee.
The proposed changes will be published today in the Federal Register and take effect 30 days later.
Mortgage rates remain near historic lows
WASHINGTON – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages eased slightly this week, remaining near historic lows.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year loan declined to 4.17 percent from 4.20 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage dipped to 3.30 percent from 3.31 percent.
Rising prices and higher interest rates beginning in mid-2013 have made homes less affordable. Sales of new homes are running about half the rate of a healthy housing market.
Data issued Tuesday by the Commerce Department showed that the pace of U.S. home construction slipped in May. Builders started work at a seasonally-adjusted yearly rate on 1.01 million homes, down 6.5 percent from 1.07 million in April.
Economic indicators index continues rising
WASHINGTON – A gauge designed to predict the economy’s future health increased for a fourth month in May, providing further evidence that the economy is gaining strength after a harsh winter caused activity to go into reverse.
The Conference Board said Thursday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.5 percent last month, an improvement from a revised 0.3 percent gain in April. The strength was broadly based with positive contributions from all the financial and labor components of the index.
“Recent data suggest the economy is finally moving up from a 2 percent growth trend to a more robust expansion,” said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. “Going forward, the biggest challenge is to sustain the rise in income growth which will drive consumption.”
Analysts are forecasting a solid performance in the second half of around 3 percent growth.