Toomey visit postponed
Due to an unexpected change in U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s schedule and his need to be in Washington, D.C., the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Breakfast program scheduled for today has been postponed. The rescheduled date will be announced.
Jobless claims at 5-year low
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid barely changed last week, while the average over the past month fell to a fresh five-year low. The decline in layoffs is helping strengthen the job market.
Weekly unemployment benefit applications rose only 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 336,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Over the past four weeks, the average number of applications has dropped by 7,500 to 339,750. That’s the lowest since February 2008, only three months into the recession.
Economists pay close attention to the four-week average of applications because it can smooth out week-to-week fluctuations. The steady decline in unemployment claims signals that companies are laying off fewer workers. That suggests many aren’t worried about economic conditions in the near future.
The four-week average has fallen nearly 15 percent since November.
Existing home sales rise
Existing-home sales rose in February to reach the highest rate in more than three years, another sign of a strengthening housing market, as inventories posted an unusually large gain in the month, a trade group said Thursday.
The National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales rose 0.8 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, hitting the highest level since November 2009.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a pace of 5.02 million for February, compared with an original estimate of a 4.92 million rate in January. On Thursday, the Realtors’ group upwardly revised January’s rate to 4.94 million.
While sales remain below pre-bubble levels, low mortgage rates and an improving jobs picture are supporting demand. Also, rising prices are encouraging activity, luring sellers to place homes on the market.
Inventories rose 9.6 percent in February to 1.94 million existing homes available for sale. The supply of existing homes rose to 4.7 months in February from 4.3 months in January, the first increase since April, but still a relatively low figure.