Inside Politics: Unemployment aid seekers
 down 12,000 last week

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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.

President Obama’s sister says the Obamas haven’t changed. Maya Soetoro-ng tells NBC, “They are entirely themselves.”’

JUSTICE

Officials deliver incorrect
 information to Congress

A review of terrorism statistics from the Justice Department shows officials have given Congress slightly incorrect information.

That is the conclusion of an inspector general’s report released Thursday.

It says Justice reported in 2009 that 512 people had been charged with terrorism or terrorism-related crimes for six years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But the audit showed 544 people actually were charged during that time period. Justice also reported that 319 people had been convicted or had pleaded guilty to terrorism or related crimes during that time. The audit showed 324.

The inspector general says nothing was significantly overstated or understated but Justice needs to do a better job.

A Justice spokesman says the department is committed to making sure investigations and casework related to terrorism are reported accurately.

WHITE HOUSE

Designer to rush production of first lady’s DNC dress

Want a dress like the one first lady Michelle Obama wore at the Democratic convention?

Designer Tracy Reese says she’s rushing to make dresses.

Ms. Reese tells NBC’s “Today” show that the hot pink silk jacquard dress with pale blue trim at the hem will cost less than $500.

The designer says she was planning the dress for a later season, but it’s being rushed through the production cycle so “more people can get their hands on it sooner.”

And she says the first lady’s nail polish — a purple-gray gel polish called “vogue” from Artistic Nail Design — was a great accessory.

Mrs. Obama’s shoes — J. Crew’s $245 “Everly” suede pumps in rhubarb — are selling online.

JUSTICE

Judge orders government to allow Gitmo access

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the government to stop trying to restrict lawyers’ access to detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., said the detainees have the right to meet with their lawyers and that a 4-year-old court order dealing with lawyer access to the brig at the U.S. naval base in Cuba is working well.

Judge Lamberth sided with some detainees whose bids to challenge their confinement have been denied or dismissed. The order prohibits the government from imposing new restrictions on lawyer-client ,meetings.

The government wanted to force lawyers who want to continue to meet with their clients to agree in writing that any meetings or communications with the detainees are “subject to the authority and discretion” of the Guantanamo Bay commanding officer.

The terrorist suspects at Guantanamo have an ongoing right to go to court to contest their imprisonment, Judge Lamberth said. “In the case of Guantanamo detainees, access to the courts means nothing without access to counsel,” he said.

Judge Lamberth, appointed by President Reagan, said the government’s attempt to change the rules was “an illegitimate exercise of executive power.”

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said government lawyers were reviewing Judge Lamberth’s ruling.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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