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Surveys Predict US Economic Gains

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New economic surveys show the U.S. economy generally improving, even though unemployment claims rose slightly last week.

Thursday's report from the Labor Department says the number of Americans signing up for unemployment insurance rose by 8,000 last week to a nationwide total of 312,000.  But that's still close to a seven-year low.

Two new surveys suggest the U.S. job market will continue to improve over the next few months.

A study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants found a majority of business executives were optimistic about the economy for the first time since the recession.

A key member of AICPA, Jim Blake, says a decline in economic turmoil is likely to strengthen the job market and the overall economy.   

"We are not seeing the blips that we were seeing up and down, over the last year or so, and I think that that is a pretty good indicator that jobs will be on the upswing," he said.

A separate survey of top economists by Bankrate.com predicts the jobless rate will fall to six percent over the next year.

The study's participants also expect that an improving U.S. economy will prompt the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates sometime next year.

The closely-watched report on the U.S. unemployment rate will be published Friday.  Economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the jobless rate will edge upward one-tenth of a percent to hit 6.4 percent.  

Experts say the rising unemployment rate is an ironic consequence of an improving economy which prompts unemployed people to resume their job search.  Some discouraged workers gave up their search when they thought there were no jobs available for them.  The official U.S. jobless rate only counts people as unemployed if they are actively looking for work.

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