Nation roundup for May 9
US applications for unemployment aid fall
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 26,000 last week to 319,000, the latest sign that the job market is slowly improving.
The drop follows two weeks of increases that reflected mostly temporary layoffs around the Easter holiday. The holiday can cause an uptick in layoffs of bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school workers during spring break. Those earlier increases caused the four-week average of applications, a less volatile number, to rise 4,500 to a seasonally adjusted 324,750.
With the impact of the holiday fading, applications are returning to pre-recession levels. The average fell in early April to 312,000, the fewest since October 2007. The recession officially began in December 2007.
“Through the volatility, the data remain encouraging,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
The four-week average of applications is down from an average of 343,000 for all of last year, O’Sullivan noted. That is “consistent with the pick-up in employment growth” that’s taken place this year, he added. Monthly job gains have averaged 214,000 from January through April, up from 194,000 in 2013.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs, and so the decline suggests that companies are cutting fewer jobs. That trend is typically followed by more hiring, though the relationship is not always exact.
Airlines ask Congress to roll back airfare rule
WASHINGTON (AP) — Airlines tried and failed to block a federal rule making them tell passengers up front the full cost of airfare, including government taxes and fees. So they’re trying another route, asking Congress to do what the Obama administration and the courts refused to do: roll back the law.
A bill in Congress would allow airlines to return to their old way of doing things, which was to emphasize in ads the base airfare — the amount airlines charge passengers to fly — but reveal the full price including taxes and fees separately. It’s backed by a bipartisan group of 33 lawmakers led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa.
Before the Transportation Department put its regulation in place two years ago, airlines and ticketing services would typically display the lower base fare in large type and show taxes and fees in small print.
Consumers shopping online often weren’t shown taxes and fees unless they scrolled to the bottom of the web page or clicked through several pages after selecting a flight.
The bill, supported both by the airline industry and by its pilot and flight-attendant unions, is moving through the House at Mach speed. It was introduced in March and approved by the transportation committee a month later without a hearing and by a voice vote, which means there is no record of who voted for or against it. The committee’s entire discussion of the measure lasted 9 minutes.
The bill is “a gift to the airlines,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a transportation committee member who said he voted against it. “What you’re going to see is $200 for the airfare, and then you’re going to be shocked when it turns out to really be $250,” he said. “It’s misleading to the consumer. It’s just dishonest.”
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