In grip of deep recession: The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits eased last week but by less than expected, according to government data today that showed the labor market in the grip of a deep recession. In addition, the number of people staying on the benefits rolls after drawing an initial week of aid the week ending Jan. 31 was at the highest on record, the Labor Department said. The department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits slipped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 623,000 in the week ending Feb, 7. Analysts polled by Reuters were expecting 610,000 claims. The previous week’s claims were revised up to 631,000, the highest since the week ending October 30, 1982. The four-week moving average for initial jobless claims, considered a more reliable gauge since it smoothes out week-to-week irregularities, rose to 607,500, the highest level since the week ending Nov. 13, 1982.
Biggest increase since November 2007: U.S. retail sales jumped 1% in January, reversing a six-month declining trend and defying economists’ expectations by posting the biggest increase in 14 months. But higher gasoline prices and sales, and buyers snapping up other items on post-holiday discounts appeared to aid last month’s results. Analysts cautioned that the relief is unlikely to last. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected January sales to show a drop of 0.8%. They plunged a revised lower 3% in December, which marked the weakest holiday selling season since at least 1969. The January report shows strong increases in sales of automobiles and in general merchandise stores—the big-box outlets—though sales by department stores, carrying fewer varieties of items, posted a decline.