- - Thursday, September 6, 2012

LABOR

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell by 12,000 last week, a hopeful signal that the job market may be improving.

The Labor Department says applications declined to a seasonally adjusted 365,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up to 371,250.

Weekly applications are a measure of the pace of layoffs. When they consistently fall below 375,000, it suggests that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

The drop likely won’t affect the August jobs report, set to be released Friday. Data for that report were compiled three weeks ago. But it could signal better hiring in September.

Economists forecast that employers added 135,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate is expected to stay unchanged at 8.3 percent.

In July, employers added 163,000 jobs. It was the best month of hiring since February and an improvement from the average of just 73,000 per month created in the April-June quarter.

Still, the economy grew at a tepid 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, down from the 2 percent rate in the January-March quarter and 4.1 percent in the final three months of last year.

Growth at or below 2 percent is typically too weak to lower the unemployment rate. Most economists expect the unemployment rate to remain above 8 percent through the November election.

NORTH CAROLINA

Obamas’ siblings: Couple hasn’t changed

CHARLOTTE — Michelle Obama’s brother says the first lady was reluctant to enter politics, but she is thriving as “mom in chief.”

Craig Robinson tells NBC’s “Today” his sister wanted a normal childhood for her daughters with the values of education and hard work she grew up with.

He says there was a question about whether it would be possible in the White House.

But he says that once she realized it was, she became more confident and began to thrive in her new role.

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