U.S. jobless claims rise, home sales fall

WASHINGTON - The number of newly laid off U.S. workers filing claims for jobless benefits rose last week and sales of previously owned homes fell in March, data showed on Thursday, indicating the 16-month old recession was far from over.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 23 Apr 2009, 9:05 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:41 AM

At the same time, the number of people claiming benefits after drawing an initial week of aid vaulted to another record high in early April, for the 14th consecutive week, the Labor Department said.

The reports dampened hopes that the recession, which is on track to become the longest since the Great Depression next week, was close to reaching a bottom.

“We still have a rocky economic climate and the major macro economic indicators are still moving down. Households are worried about their income and employment,” said Lawrence White, professor of economics at the New York University’s Stern School of Business.

U.S. stocks extended losses on the data, while government bond prices trimmed losses.

The Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits increased to a seasonally adjusted 640,000 in the week ended April 18 from 613,000 the prior week.

However, the number of people claiming benefits after drawing an initial week of aid jumped 93,000 to a t 6.137 million in the week ended April 11, the most recent week for which data is available. It was the highest reading of so-called continued claims on record.

The country’s most severe recession in a generation has cost more than 5 million jobs since it began in late 2007 and economists fear this toll will keep rising as businesses slash payrolls to protect profits.

Mounting job losses have eroded household incomes, already squeezed by the collapse of U.S. house prices and stock market prices, curtailing big purchases on things like houses.

Data from the National Association of showed the pace of previously owned homes in the U.S. fell 3.0 percent in March to a 4.57 million-unit annual rate. February’s rate was initially rpeorted as 4.72 million, but was revised down to 4.71 million.

“Unfortunately, there’s no sign yet of a recovery though you have the conditions for a recovery with low mortgage rates and very affordable prices,” said Gary Thayer, senior economist at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis, Missouri.

The inventory of existing homes for sale fell 1.6 percent to 3.74 million from the 3.80 million overstock reported February. The median national home price rose 4.2 percent to $175,200 from February, boosted by seasonal factors. However, prices fell 12.4 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

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