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first time jobless claims for 3-23-13
In what could be the first signs of an impact from the budget sequestration, the Department of Labor reported Thursday that for the week ending March 23, seasonally adjusted initial claims for jobless benefits rose to 357,000, up 16,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000. For the comparable week of 2012, new claims were 363,000. The four-week running average preferred by most experts because it flattens volatility in the weekly claims, rose to 343,000 from the previous week's revised average of 340,750.

The numbers included the annual revision.

In all programs, state and federal "emergency" extensions, the total number of people claiming benefits for the week ending March 9 was 5,455,757. That was up 86,750 from the previous week. For the comparable week of 2012, there were 7,158,470 persons claiming benefits. That drop came about because people got full-time or part-time jobs or exhausted their benefits. Continue reading about the nation's gross domestic product and other labor market news below the fold.

Meanwhile, in what would be disturbing news any other time, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced an improvement in its third and final estimate for the fourth quarter of 2012 that inflation-adjusted growth in the nation's gross domestic product was 0.4 percent. The initial report in January showed GDP growth to have contracted by 0.1 percent. The latest report means that for all of 2012, real GDP grew a paltry 1.7 percent despite predictions at the end of 2011 that it would grow 2.5-4 percent. In 2011, real GDP grew by 2.0 percent.

GDP third estimate for 4Q 2012
Although GDP does a reasonable job of measuring the value of goods and services produced over a specific time frame, it is, as I have often reiterated, a flawed gauge because it fails to measure crucial factors such as income inequality and the wrecking of the environment in the pursuit of economic growth. It makes no distinction between spending on buying new automobiles and spending on medical services and lawsuits when those automobiles collide. It does not, for instance. measure the value of someone who stays home to raise children, even when they are home-schooled.

As Robert Kennedy said 45 years ago this month:

'Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

'Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.'

A recent report by Demos noted that, because GDP measures average income, it can greatly distort the impact among households. Although inflation-adjusted GDP has doubled in the past three decades, median household income has risen a mere 16 percent, reflecting how much better off the affluent in America have become in comparison with those people below the upper tier.

With all those flaws, the report of slightly better growth in GDP than the initial calculations showed nonetheless falls into line with a broad range of improvements in the economy, housing in particular. Eight of 10 of the indexes that make of the Conference Board's Leading Economic Indicators are up.

Still lagging, however, 64 months since the Great Recession began, is the labor market, where there is one job for every 3.4 people in search of one, the official unemployment rate is 7.7 percent and, when part-timers who want full-time work but can't find it and people who have left the workforce but say they still want a job are tallied, the unemployment and underemployment numbers clock in at 26.8 million Americans.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 09:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Economics, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Daily Kos.

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