Job market continues to weaken

Although the unemployment rate is at a historically low 4.9 percent, the U.S. job market seems to be weakening, according to The Wall Street Journal.

During the past four weeks, weekly claims for unemployment benefits have averaged about 360,000 up from 325,000 six months ago; during recessions, there typically are 400,000 or more claims filed. During late February, 2.83 million people were receiving unemployment benefits, the highest number since a post-Hurricane Katrina surge in 2005.

The length of time a typical unemployed person is out of work has risen to 8.8 weeks from 7.5 weeks at the end of 2006. The amount of time people spend doing their jobs has decreased, with hours worked at nonfarm businesses falling 1.6 percent during 2007's fourth quarter—the biggest decline since 2003.

Manufacturers have cut jobs during the past four months; the service sector has cut jobs during the past two months; and the National Federation of Independent Business's small-business employment index is the lowest since May 2003. In addition, almost 24 percent of participants in The Conference Board's recent consumer confidence survey said jobs were "hard to get"; this number is higher than those in the first months during the 1990 and 2001 recessions.

Date : 3/13/2008