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Drop in Unemployment Claims Points to Strong February Hiring, but Spending, Incomes Still Weak

Associated Press (03/01/12) Christopher Rugaber; Derek Kravitz

Steady declines in applications for unemployment aid are pointing to another strong month of hiring in February. Meanwhile, manufacturing growth slowed and construction spending dipped, while auto and retail sales both climbed. The mixed data suggest the recovery will stay bumpy. Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Market, notes: “Stronger job creation is not generating more spending.”

Many economists predict employers added more than 200,000 net jobs in February for the third straight month. “The labor market appears to have strengthened markedly over the last few months,” says Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics. Ashworth predicts the economy added 220,000 net jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell for the sixth straight month, to 8.2%.