Applications for jobless benefits drops
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 343,000 last week, a sign that employers are adding jobs at modest pace.
The less volatile four-week average dipped 750 to 345,500, the Labor Department said Wednesday.
Weekly applications for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. The four-week average has fallen 9 percent in the past year.
Job growth has been stable. A separate report showed that companies stepped up hiring in June, a hopeful sign ahead of Friday’s employment report for last month.
Payroll provider ADP said businesses added 188,000 jobs in June, up from 134,000 in May and the most since February. Construction firms added 21,000 jobs, a sign the housing recovery is boosting hiring. Small businesses — those with less than 50 employees — added 84,000 jobs.
Trade deficit at six-month high
The U.S. trade deficit increased in May to the highest level in six months as a weak global economy depressed U.S. export sales while imports of autos and other non-petroleum products hit an all-time high.
The trade deficit rose to $45 billion in May, up 12.1 percent from April’s $40.1 billion imbalance, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. It was the largest trade gap since November.
Exports slipped 0.3 percent to $187.1 billion as sales of American farm products dropped to the lowest point in more than two years. U.S. exports have been hurt by recessions in many European countries.
Imports rose 1.9 percent to $232.1 billion with non-petroleum imports hitting a record high.
The trade deficit is running at an annual rate of $501.2 billion, 6.3 percent lower than last year’s total of $534.7 billion.
A wider trade gap can restrain growth because it means U.S. consumers and businesses are spending more on foreign goods than U.S. companies are taking in from overseas sales. But economists noted that the wider deficit does show growth in the United States remains stronger than most other nations. That growth has helped fuel more spending by consumers on domestic and imported goods.
Oh no, Mr. Roboto
Honda Motor Co.’s walking, talking interactive robot is running into glitches in its new job as a museum guide in Tokyo.
The bubble-headed Asimo machine had problems telling the difference between people raising their hands to ask questions and those aiming their smartphones to take photos at the Miraikan science museum.
It froze mid-action and repeated a programmed remark, “Who wants to ask Asimo a question?”