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Chart showing weekly claims for jobless benefits week ending Aug. 11, 2012
For the week ending Aug. 11, the Department of Labor reported an upward bump in seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment benefits to 366,000, up 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 364,000. The original report for the previous week was 361,000. First-time claims for benefits this week last year were 408,000.

The four-week running average, which flattens volatility in the weekly numbers, was 363,750. That's 5,500 down from the previous week's revised average of 369,250.

In all jobless benefit programs, federal and state, the total number of people makes continuing claiming for the week ending July 28 was 5,680,545. That's down 69,782 from the previous week. That doesn't mean, however, that an extra 70,000 got jobs, however. Many out-of-work Americans are exhausting their benefits. Some of those continue to look for employment, but many drop out of the labor market altogether and are no longer counted in the unemployment numbers even though they may still want jobs.

Meanwhile, housing starts took a 1.1 percent drop in July, the Commerce Department announced. They were on an annualized pace of 746,000. The numbers dropped "unexpectedly," reports say. That's a word used a whole lot about economic statistics of various sorts over the past four years. It's a worrisome sign made worse by the fact that previous figures on starts for June and May were both revised down:

There were also some positive signals in Thursday's report. New permits for building homes rose 6.8 percent in July to a 812,000 unit pace, the highest rate since August 2008.

But in the readings on groundbreaking of new homes, the government revised lower its estimates for recent months. Starts during June was revised down to a 754,000-unit pace from a previously reported 760,000-unit rate. Mays reading was also revised lower to a 706,000-unit pace.

The low point for annualized housing starts was 478,000 in April 2009. The average over the past half century, beginning in 1959, has been 1.5 million new houses a year.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Aug 16, 2012 at 05:58 AM PDT.

Also republished by Unemployment Chronicles and Daily Kos.

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