Employers remain reluctant to hire

WASHINGTON – Some 457,000 workers filed new applications for unemployment benefits last week, an increase of 20,000, indicating that employers are still reluctant to hire.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected initial jobless claims to climb to a seasonally adjusted 445,000 in the week ended Oct. 30. Claims for the previous week were revised up by 3,000 to 437,000, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

The latest increase put weekly claims back at the same level as the end of 2009, meaning there’s been no change this year. Economists believe claims have to start moving toward 400,000 to signify improved hiring trends, but they’ve hovered around 450,000 or higher throughout 2010.

A more accurate gauge of employment trends is the four-week average of initial claims, which was little changed, falling by 2,000 to 456,000.

– MarketWatch

Bargains likely after weak October

NEW YORK – Shoppers took a breather in October, resulting in lackluster gains for retailers and raising the stakes on what is sure to be a competitive holiday season.

For Christmas shoppers, that means that heavy discounts will be coming early and often.

“The deals will be so attractive that shoppers may not want to wait,” said John Long, retail strategist at Kurt Salmon Associates.

“This is going to be a great (time) to be a consumer.”

For October, the International Council of Shopping Centers index measuring revenue at stores open at least a year showed a 1.6 percent increase in October, the weakest performance since April’s 0.8 percent increase.

October’s figure represented a slowdown from September, when it rose 2.6 percent. It’s also below the average pace of 3.2 percent since the start of retailers’ fiscal year, which begins in February.

– The Associated Press

Lag in productivity may boost jobs

WASHINGTON – U.S. productivity rose 1.9 percent in the third quarter as labor costs fell, marking the sixth increase in the past seven quarters, government data showed Thursday.

Yet productivity growth has tapered off since the end of 2009, and if the usual patterns hold, companies might start to hire more workers soon. That would be welcome news for millions of jobless Americans.

“Since productivity has slowed, further gains in nonfarm payrolls are likely to be realized,” chief economic strategist Dan Greenhaus of Miller Tabak & Co. said in an e-mail.

Productivity typically soars after a recession because companies cut their labor force more than they reduced their output of goods and services.

As an economy recovers, companies tend to increase overtime until demand outstrips what remaining workers can produce. At that point, businesses start to hire again.

– MarketWatch