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Economy

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Home construction dips, but signs point up
U.S. builders broke ground on slightly fewer homes in July than June. But in a hopeful sign for future construction, applications for building permits rose to their highest level since August 2008.
The Commerce Department said Thursday that single-family homes and apartments started in July dipped 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000. That’s down from June’s rate of 754,000.
The weakness in July came from a 6.5 percent drop in the building of single-family homes, which represent about 70 percent of the market. By contrast, construction of apartments rose 12.4 percent to an annual rate of 244,000 units.
But applications for building permits rose 6.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 812,000. The construction report was released the same day mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.62 percent, up from 3.59 percent last week. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, rose to 2.88 percent. That’s up from 2.84 percent last week and record low of 2.80 percent three weeks ago.
Cheap mortgages have helped fuel a modest housing recovery this year.
– Associated Press
Associated Press
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week to a seasonally adjusted 361,000.

Jobless aid claims up slightly

Range still in line with modest gains in hiring, data show

– The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits edged up slightly last week but remained at a level consistent with modest gains in hiring.

Unemployment benefit applications rose by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000, the Labor Department said.

The less volatile four-week average fell by 5,500 to 363,750. That was the lowest level since late March.

Applications have trended lower in the past two months, indicating companies are laying off fewer workers and hiring is picking up. When applications fall consistently below 375,000, it generally suggests hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate, economists say.

“Claims so far in August have declined moderately compared to July, suggesting some improvement in the U.S. job environment. And that’s good news,” said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

The total number of people receiving some kind of unemployment assistance also fell, dipping to 5.68 million for the week ending July 28, 70,000 below the previous week.

The decline in the number of people applying for weekly unemployment benefits has been one of several signs that the economy and hiring rebounded in July after falling into a spring slump.

Employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the most since February. Job gains averaged 73,000 jobs a month from April through June, not enough to keep up with a rising population.

The unemployment rate blipped up to 8.3 percent, from 8.2 percent.

Americans boosted their retail spending in July by the most in five months, according to the Commerce Department. That suggests some are more confidence in the economy.

And factory output also rose in July for the second straight month, according to the Federal Reserve. A large jump in auto production drove the increase.

Slower growth in consumer spending was the main reason growth slowed in the April-June quarter to an annual rate of 1.5 percent, down from 2 percent in the January-March quarter and 4.1 percent in the final three months of 2011.

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