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The number of newly-laid off Americans filing for jobless benefits continues to decline, while U.S. merchants are showing some improvement in sales figures.
The U.S. Labor Department says new claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in 10 months. Last week's total, 512,000, was 20,000 less than the previous week and below many analysts' expectations.
Even so, weekly unemployment claims above the half-million mark are a sign that the U.S. economy continues to shed jobs, albeit at a slower pace than a few months ago.
Joel Naroff heads Pennsylvania-based Naroff Economic Advisors:
"We still have a lot of people being laid off," said Joel Naroff. "The unemployment rate is still going to be going up. But at least the trend is in the right direction."
The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 9.8 percent in September. The October figure will be released Friday. Expectations are for another rise in the jobless rate, although perhaps not as severe as had been feared just a few weeks ago.
Economists are awaiting signs of vibrant job creation in the United States. But a new report suggests employers are finding ways to get more output from their existing workforce, rather than hiring new laborers. The Labor Department says American worker productivity jumped nearly 10 percent in the third quarter of the year.
Economist Joel Naroff says American companies are in no rush to hire:
"They are working their people longer," he said. "They are getting more output from their people. And as a result of that, they do not need new workers at this point."
Meanwhile, a wide range of American retailers are reporting improved sales. From warehouse discounters to luxury-goods merchants, many retailers say sales rebounded in October. But the improvement was not universal. Several specialty-items retailers reported drops in sales.
Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.