Entries in Economy (101)


Report Shows Large Drop in African-American Unemployment

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The unemployment rate among African-Americans dropped by more than two percentage points from December to January, according to the labor department’s report released Friday.

African-American unemployment has never been lower than 15 percent since 2009, but plummeted from 15.8 percent to 13.6 percent last month. The number is no longer double the white unemployment rate as it has been for years, but is still disproportionately higher.

The drop was even more pronounced among black men, a demographic that saw nearly 17 percent unemployment in Jan. 2011. The unemployment rate for black men for January 2012 was 12.7 percent.

January’s statistics signal a distinct change from previous numbers that show huge and increasing disparities between white and black employment rates. In several reports during 2011, the jobless rate for African-Americans went up while the rate for whites declined.

January marked the first month since October that the African-American unemployment rate dropped in line with the overall rate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Poll: Most Americans Still Say Economy Is on the Wrong Track

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The nation’s economic ice jam is showing tentative signs of a thaw, warming some political sentiment along with it.  But is the change enough to boost President Obama -- and incumbents generally -- in the election year ahead?

According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 68 percent of Americans still say the country’s headed seriously off on the wrong track.  But that’s down from 77 percent in September, and “right direction” ratings -- at 30 percent -- while weak, are their best since June.

This shift in economic sentiment can be seen in the political mood.  Forty-five percent of Americans now say an economic recovery is under way -- still fewer than half, but up by 9 points from two months ago.  The president’s approval rating on handling job creation has advanced by 6 points to its best in nearly two years.  And the number of Americans who say they’ve gotten worse off financially under this president has eased by 5 points since September, to 30 percent.

Yet, there’s still a deep chill.  This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that even with his gain on jobs, 51 percent disapprove of how Obama’s handling them.  Despite the change in “worse-off” ratings, twice as many have lost ground financially under Obama compared to those that say they’ve moved ahead.  And while more say a recovery’s begun, three-quarters of them also say it’s a weak one.

There’s also one particular risk ahead: The federal Energy Information Administration reported this week that the price of gasoline has risen by 16 cents in the past month to an average $3.39 a gallon -- its highest in any January in records since 1990.  If gas keeps rising, the recent, tentative advances in economic and political sentiment would be imperiled.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gains for Stocks on Positive Economic News

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks pushed higher Thursday on promising news from a pair of positive economic reports.

The Dow closed up 63 points Thursday. The Nasdaq gained 21, and the S&P added 10 points during the session.

The year may end on better financial footing than it started. The U.S. Commerce Department says the economy is growing at a faster pace than it did earlier this year.  The Labor Department says the number of people filing for first time jobless claims last week hit the lowest level since April of 2008.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Europe's Instability Pulls US Stocks Lower

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The markets swung Tuesday from losses to gains, and back to losses again, with a warning from the Federal Reserve about continued financial instability in Europe.

The Dow on Tuesday closed down 66 points at 11,954.  The Nasdaq lost 33 points, closing at 2,579.  The S&P gave up 11 points.

The Federal Reserve says the outlook on jobs is getting brighter, but that unemployment it still too high.  For now, that leaves a key interest rate unchanged.  

The Central Bank also warned that the U.S. economy is still too dependent on that of Europe.  The region continues to teeter on the brink of collapse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Boehner Urges Democrats to Support GOP’s Economic Package

Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As Congress wrestles over a slate of outstanding issues to settle before the end of the year, House Speaker John Boehner Monday urged Democrats to join Republicans in passing an economic package that would extend a number of expiring measures, like unemployment insurance and the payroll tax credit.

“I do believe that [the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Act] is going to pass with bipartisan support, and when it comes to jobs the American people can’t wait,” Boehner said. “We’re going to take action.”

The Ohio Republican would not reveal whether he would dismiss lawmakers once the House concludes its business, but he said it is “important” that Congress pass the extensions to help Americans desperate for relief.

“We’re going to have to wait until later on in the week to see what the Senate does,” Boehner said. “All I can do is report to you about what the House is doing and I’m confident that we’re going to move the bills that we need to move this week, and then the Senate can do whatever the Senate has to do.”

The GOP’s proposal would extend the payroll tax credit for one year, reform and extend unemployment insurance, and implement a “doc fix” to protect Medicare physicians from large reimbursement cuts. It also accelerates a presidential decision on the Keystone XL energy pipeline, which Republicans say will create tens of thousands of jobs but Democrats have decried as a poison pill in the Senate.

Boehner said he believes the GOP’s bill will pass with bipartisan support when it comes to the floor Tuesday, citing an endorsement by Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Boren, who called on Congress Monday to “come together in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation.”

But many Democrats and President Obama point to the controversial pipeline project as justification to oppose the package. Nevertheless, Boehner said he still believes there’s a “good shot” that the Senate will pass the measure with the provision included.

Boehner would not comment on the prospect of further negotiations if the House passes the bill but the Senate rejects it.

“The House is going to do its job, and it’s time for the Senate then to do its job,” he said.

Aside from the payroll tax credit, unemployment insurance and SGR/Doc Fix, which are all set to expire Dec. 31, the House must also pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government before the current continuing resolution runs out on Friday. That bill is expected to be introduced as soon as Tuesday morning, with a vote in the House as early as Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama: ‘I Didn’t Overpromise’ on Economy

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama says he “didn’t overpromise” on his administration’s plan to repair the struggling U.S. economy. “And I didn’t underestimate how tough this was going to be,” he added in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes.

Instead, Obama said, he has always believed the economic recovery would be a “long-term project.”

“For individual Americans who are struggling right now, they have every reason to be impatient. Reversing structural problems in our economy that have been building up for two decades, that’s going to take time,” Obama said. “It’s going to take more than a year, it’s going to take more than two years, it is going to take more than one term. It probably takes more than one president.”

Less than a year before voters will decide whether to give Obama a second term, his approval rating stands at 43 percent.

Obama said on 60 Minutes that he likens his role in managing the economy to being a ship’s captain.

“No matter how well we’re steering the ship, the boat’s rocking back and forth, people are getting sick. They’re being buffeted by the winds and the rain. At a certain point if you ask them are you enjoying the ride right now, folks are going to say no. And are they going to say do you think the captain’s doing a good job? People are going to say you know a good captain would have had us in smooth waters and sunny skies at this point,” he said.

“I don’t control the weather. What I can control are the policies we’ve put in place to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fitch Cuts US Outlook from Stable to Negative

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are new doubts about the ability of the United States to get its financial house in order. After the market closed Monday, Fitch Ratings announced it has revised its outlook on the U.S. credit rating from “stable” to “negative.”

“The Negative Outlook reflects Fitch’s declining confidence that timely fiscal measures necessary to place U.S. public finances on a sustainable path and secure the U.S. ‘AAA’ sovereign rating will be forthcoming,” Fitch said in a statement.

Fitch said blame rests with the so-called congressional supercommittee that failed to agree on spending cuts and tax increases to help reduce the nation’s deficit.

“By postponing the difficult decisions on tax and spending until after forthcoming Congressional and Presidential elections, the scale and pace of required deficit reduction will consequently be greater.”

Fitch maintained its AAA rating on U.S. debt and indicated the risks of a downgrade appear minimal. The other credit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, also left their AAA ratings unchanged.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Approaches $15 Trillion Debt Limit

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- It will be the latest sobering economic milestone that few were hoping to see: The U.S. national debt -- any day now -- will soar above the $15 trillion mark.

As of press time, the total debt is $14.97 trillion, so moving beyond the symbolic $15 trillion is a foregone conclusion. When the unwelcome milestone is reached, it will come at a volatile time both in this country and abroad.

Across the Atlantic, President Obama is in Cannes, France, for the G-20 summit that takes place as Europe is trying to finalize a bailout for debt-ridden Greece.

Back on the homefront, Obama is preparing for a difficult re-election fight next year. Republican candidates from Mitt Romney to Herman Cain have pounced on the country’s economic woes in their bids to win the GOP nomination and the chance to oppose Obama. Anger over rising debt helped sweep Republicans into historic House majorities in the 2010 midterm elections. Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street protests directed at the nation’s financial inequalities continue to fester in cities across the country.

In Washington, a polarized Congress has ground to a halt in the dispute on how to jumpstart the economy and reduce the country’s deficits. Only a few months ago, the acrimonious debate on Capitol Hill about raising the debt ceiling -- a debate that almost caused the Treasury Department to default on its debts -- illustrated the enormous partisan divide that still shows no signs of improving.

The approaching $15 trillion debt milestone is not even the only piece of bad economic news for the country. The jobs report for October -- released Friday morning -- showed that U.S. employers added an estimated 80,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, worse than economists expected. The unemployment rate decreased to 9.0 percent, down from 9.1 percent a month earlier, small consolation for a nation still struggling to recover from a severe recession.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Student Loan Debt Up for Class of 2010

Jupiterimages/ComstockTwo-thirds of all college students now graduate with debt -- and the amount they accumulate to pay for their education keeps growing by the year.

According to a new report by The Project on Student Debt, the average senior with student loans is graduating with $25,250 in debt, up five percent since the prior year.

The subject has recently come to the forefront because of the protesters of Occupy Wall Street, who have come together in cities across the country and abroad to shed light on the problems of the so-called "99 percent."

They not only protest on the streets, but have formed coalitions on Facebook,Twitter and Tumblr -- most recently forming Occupy Student Debt, a page dedicated to people sharing their stories about struggling with student loan debt.

While many are struggling to repay their loans, the class of 2010 may have a harder time. Reports show that they are facing the highest unemployment rate for new college graduates in recent history at 9.1 percent. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for people under 30 is at 13 percent.

The amount of debt not only seems to vary school to school, but also from region to region. The report shows that students in the Northeast and Midwest tend to have more student loan debt than people living in the West. New Hampshire was the state with the highest average debt level at $31,048 per student, followed by Maine and Iowa. Utah and Hawaii were the states with the lowest debt average at $15,509 and $15,550.

According to the report, the disparity may be attributed to fact that a larger group of students attend private, nonprofit, four-year colleges, which tend to be more expensive, while those in the West have a bigger share of students attending public schools.

The report also listed colleges that specifically have students with higher-than-average student loan debt. The private nonprofit colleges, including California Institute of the Arts, Florida Institute of Technology and New York University, all have an average debt from $40,400 to $55,250.

The high-debt public colleges, like University of New Hampshire-Main Campus, Alabama State University and Temple University, all have an average of $29,800 to $45,350.

Private, for-profit colleges were not included on either list because so few of them report the relevant debt data needed to be listed, and generally don't respond to the survey that The Project on Student Debt uses to compile data. The most recent national data, however, shows that 96 percent of graduates from those schools took out loans and borrowed 45 percent more than graduates from other four-year colleges.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Federal Reserve Board to Meet Again

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The policy-making committee of the Federal Reserve Board is set to meet Tuesday and Wednesday, but the topic of discussion is not so clear.

The committee might be meeting to take some further step to stimulate economic growth. If they did so, it would be the third such attempted stimulation since August. But 5 out of 10 of voting members have declared themselves against such a move, on the grounds that it would risk giving the impression that the Fed is getting soft on inflation.

The committee also could add to the bank’s already hefty portfolio of Treasury securities and mortgage bonds, which would serve to keep down already-low long-term interest rates -- a move that Antuilo Bomfin, senior managing director of Macroeconomic Advisory, views as unlikely. The firm, which forecasts the U.S. economic outlook, is headed by former Fed governor Laurence H. Meyer.

“Over its last two meetings,” says Bomfin of the Fed’s policy committee, “They already have taken some very bold decisions.” He cites ‘Operation Twist’ -- the purchase of additional mortgage-backed securities, and the bank’s declaration that it intends to keep rates low though mid-2013 if current forecasts hold -- as examples of such boldness. “So, I’m not expecting much in terms of big decisions from the two days starting Tuesday,” Bomfin said. “There will more said about the need for improved communication and transparency.” The meeting, he predicts, will be devoted to “internal discussions” rather than to making any big announcement Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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