Jobless claims rise after steady declines
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week after three weeks of decline.
Even with the gain, applications remained at a level consistent with modest hiring. The broader trend over the past month suggests job growth could pick up further in the new year.
Weekly applications increased by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 381,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The four-week average, a less-volatile measure, dropped for the fourth straight week to 375,000. That is the lowest level since June 2008.
Applications generally must fall below 375,000, consistently, to signal that hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.
Tax officials strike over cuts in salary
ATHENS | Greek tax officials walked off the job Thursday at the start of a 48-hour strike to protest salary cuts and other austerity measures, as the government struggles to meet revenue targets demanded by the country’s international creditors.
The prospect of a shutdown of the tax offices for the last days of 2011 prompted hundreds of Greeks on Wednesday to rush to settle last-minute issues before the strike. Many handed over their car license plates, preferring to keep their vehicles off the highways instead of paying a recently hiked road tax.
Late Thursday, a lower court ruled the strike illegal at the request of the Greek government, obliging the tax officials to show up for work Friday. It was not immediately clear how the strikers would react. Unions have sometimes defied similar orders.
The Athens Chamber of Small Industries said it sent a letter to the country’s finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, urging a change in the higher road tax and arguing it was clear the government would be unable to collect the $1.55 billion it hoped for from the levy.
The chamber said there had been a 30 percent increase in the number of people turning in their vehicle registration plates compared with previous years. That would lead to decreased road tax revenues and hurt the economy through a fall in the consumption of fuel, vehicle spare parts and spending on car maintenance and insurance, it said.
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