Harper: Jobless Claims Down; Economy Relatively Healthy

Aug 29, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper, assistant vice president of economic development at the University of West Florida, discusses the latest jobless claims report.

Dr. Rick Harper
Credit University of West Florida

The U.S. Department of Labor report for the week ended Aug. 23 showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a second straight week last week to 298,000, with a four-week average at 299,750.

“What that means,” says Harper “is that the moving average over time continues to be low, pointing towards improvements in the labor market. So, we did see that continuing claims rose slightly, with 2.5 million recipients of continued jobless benefits. But, the number of folks who are initially filing for benefits is back down under 300,000.”

Meantime, the state of Florida is recovering more rapidly than the nation as a whole, because of it was hit harder by the recession than most states due to the crash in the housing market. “For the past several years, we’ve seen faster job growth and speedier improvement in jobless claims, and we continue to see that today,” Harper says.

Also this week, Harper discusses the latest estimate for the second quarter growth domestic product (GDP). He says the second of three estimates shows “it’s improved slightly” up to 4 percent. That follows a decline in the first quarter growth estimate of minus (-)2.1% and an initial second quarter estimate of 4%.

Harper says overall it’s a good GDP picture, “What we’ve seen is that consumer spending made the largest contribution to growth. We saw that investment spending improved, exports improved and that personal income improved.”

All in all, Harper believes the economy is relatively healthy, despite a slow, steady growth and some economic analysts’ projections of a slowdown. “So, the outlook is generally positive; labor market improving, unemployment coming down, inflation still under control, and output growing at a decent rate.”

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement and director of the Studer Institute; rharper@uwf.edu.