First-time jobless claims up for second straight week

Jobless claims have been steadily declining for the past two months and they hit a seven-month low two weeks ago even has employers remain reluctant to hire. 

The report comes on the eve of the release of the Labor Department's November figures — which are projected by economists to come in at around a net increase of 125,000 with the unemployment rate staying at 9 percent. 

The economy added only 80,000 jobs in October but August and September figures were revised upward to show solid gains. 

ADP released a report on Wednesday showing a montly gain of 206,000 private-sector jobs — governments have been cutting jobs, dragging the overall number down. 

Economists suggest that claims need to fall below 375,000 before the job market can be considered healthy — applications fell to 375,000 in February and stayed below 400,000 for two months, before hitting an eight-month high of 478,000 in April.

Meanwhile, there are other positive signs of the economy's recovery although it remains sluggish. 

Retailers had a record start to the holiday retail spending season with record sales in stores and online while consumer confidence rose in November. 

Consumer spending represents 70 percent of economic activity and is a key factor to accelerating the recovery. 

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits for the week ended Nov. 19 increaesd by 35,000 to 3.74 million, the Labor Department said. 

Those who have used up their 26 weeks of state benefits and are now collecting federal emergency and extended payments increased by about 69,500 to 3.52 million in the week ended Nov. 12. 

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending Nov. 12 was just more than 7 million, an increase of 276,832 from the previous week.

While Congress considers an extension of unemployment benefits and expanded payroll tax cut along with other initiatives, Europe continues to weigh on the U.S. and global economic recovery. 

House and Senate Democrats are pressing for another yearlong extension of federal benefits before they expire Dec. 31. The Labor Department estimates about 2 million people will lose benefits by mid-February if the program isn't extended and argue that it will lead to more job losses and leave struggling workers without any help while they job hunt. 

The Federal Reserve and other global central banks announced a coordinated effort on Wednesday to boost the financial system by making it easier for banks across the world to trade in U.S. dollars. The step is the most dramatic effort taken by the Fed to contain a European debt crisis that threatens to spark a global recession. 

Economists are concerned that Europe is headed for, or might possibly already be in, a recession.