The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits last week fell to the lowest level in 10 months, evidence that job cuts are easing as the economy slowly heals.
Still, companies are reluctant to hire and economists expect the unemployment rate will tick up to 9.9 percent when October’s figure is reported Friday. The jobless rate hit a 26-year high of 9.8 percent in September.
The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 512,000. That’s better than economists’ estimates of 523,000.
Economists closely watch initial claims, which are considered a gauge of the pace of layoffs and an indication of employers’ willingness to hire new workers.
The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, dropped to 523,750, its ninth straight decline. That’s 135,000 below the peak for the recession, reached in early April.
Despite the improvement, initial claims remain well above the roughly 400,000 that economists say will signal job creation.
The economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual pace in the July-September quarter, the government said last week, ending a record four straight quarters of decline and providing the strongest signal yet that the recession is over.
But economists worry that growth will slow early next year as various government stimulus programs wind down. That uncertainty has made many employers reluctant to hire.
In addition, many companies are squeezing more production from their existing work forces. Productivity, the amount of output per hour worked, jumped 9.5 percent in the third quarter, the Labor Department said in a separate report. That’s the sharpest increase in six years, and it enables companies to produce more without hiring extra workers.
Economists expect the nation lost a net total of 175,000 jobs last month, adding to the 7.2 million lost since the recession began in December 2007.
The number of people claiming jobless benefits for more than a week fell by 68,000 to 5.75 million, above analysts’ estimates but the eighth drop in nine weeks. The continuing claims data lag initial claims by one week.
Another 4.1 million people claimed extended unemployment benefits in the week ended Oct. 17, the latest data available, an increase of about 100,000 from the previous week. Congress has added 53 weeks of emergency aid on top of the 26 weeks typically provided by states.
Legislation to extend benefits by another 14 to 20 weeks was approved earlier this week by the Senate.
Some companies are still announcing job cuts. Microsoft said Wednesday that it will eliminate 800 jobs on top of 5,000 layoffs that it announced in January. And Johnson & Johnson said it could cut up to 8,300 jobs as part of a restructuring.
Among the states, California reported the largest increase in claims, with 14,394, which it attributed to layoffs in the construction, services, manufacturing and agriculture industries. North Carolina, Oregon, Georgia and New York had the next largest increases. The state data lag initial claims by a week.
FOI Act Implementation Bothers BPST Boss
The Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr Dasuki Arabi, has expressed regrets that the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has remained very low since the law was enacted.
The BPSR boss made the observation during a workshop held on Wednesday in Abuja on the appraisal of Freedom of Information Act.
Arabi said the Act was meant to entrench transparency and openness in governance through improved compliance to annual reporting obligations of public institutions.
“It is also expected to guide and improve compliance of public institutions in proactive disclosure of mandatory publication requirements, as well as empower citizens, the right to access information held by the state.
“Regrettably, since the introduction of the FOI Act, it is evident that the level of compliance among public institutions still remains low.
“While the level of engagement by citizens still remains insignificant and in some cases fraught with misunderstanding between the State and Non-State actors,” he added.
Arabi, therefore, said that the workshop was to resolve some of the grey areas around FOI, as well as foster a harmonious relationship between the State and Non-State actors towards the implementation of the Act.
He said good governance and transparency would only thrive in the country when citizens access to Information is assured.
The DG emphasised that the FOIA provided platform for inclusiveness that sought to hold leaders to account and feed into the decision making process.
Arabi said that the Bureau had worked assiduously towards the implementation of the Act and was making efforts to ensure that it was institutionalized across the public sector.
He said that the interventions were in the areas of training public service workers and development of feedback mechanism through which a portal for application and responses for FOI request were deployed.
Others, he said, are score-card for ranking the performances of websites of public institutions using specific benchmarks, including FOI portal.
“Creating platforms for citizens engagement with Civil Societies Organizations on topical issues of government through the BPSR flagship programmes such as the monthly Lunchtime Seminar series,” he added.
Arabi said that the Bureau had also deployed information technology to provide innovative means to improve record keeping and management using intranet and Electronic Data Management Systems.
He continued that they were working in conjunction with the Nigeria Economic Summit Group to gauge the perception of citizens on public policies.
In her remarks, the National Coordinator, Open Government Partnership (OGP), Nigeria, Dr Gloria Ahmed, said making information open was a hallmark of democracy and a basic human right.
She said that the FOIA has given citizens the opportunity to access information as regards government policies and reforms.
FCTA Harmonises Mobile Adverts, Haulage System Against Double Taxation
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage (DOAS), has launched the FCT/State Mobile Advertisement and Haulage permits for 2023 financial year.
Permanent Secretary, FCTA, Mr Olusade Adesola, while launching the system sought the cooperation of the business owners in the FCT, in order to achieve the objective of the initiative.
Adesola said the move was part of efforts to facilitate the ease of doing business drive in the nation’s capital.
He commended DOAS for the initiative. aimed at improving institutional cooperation and partnerships with the critical stakeholders.
Adesola warned: “FCTA would no longer tolerate acts of thuggery in the collection of taxes, as there are better ways of doing such, which will ensure the attainment of ease of doing business.”
He commended the leadership of Area Councils for resolving to synergise with DOAS to streamline the system.
The Permanent Secretary said the proliferation of collection authorities for mobile advertisements had led to serious loss of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the FCT.
Earlier, the Executive Chairman, Kwali Area Council, Danladi Chiya, said although Area Councils have the constitutional right to collect such advertisements, they have no issue with FCTA over the establishment and mandate of DOAS.
LASG Begins Vehicle Parking Lanes Demacation
The Lagos State Parking Authority (LASPA) has revealed it will today commence creating additional Vehicle Parking Lanes in some selected locations across the State.
The Authority stated that all efforts have been geared towards improving the parking system of the State.
Speaking on the planned initiative on Friday in Ikeja, the General Manager of LASPA, Mrs. Adebisi Adelabu, stated that the vehicle parking lane mark exercise, which will begin with designated streets within Surulere, Ikoyi, Lekki, Obalende, Ikeja and Victoria Island axis of the State, is a step towards improving street parking from 2023.
Adelabu noted that the Parking Lane Markings will further guide motorists and pedestrians on appropriate parking regulations and spaces, minimise indiscriminate parking, confusion and uncertainty, while conveying a range of information to residents on parking procedures within each specified environment.
According to her, the lane markings will also include special consideration for people living with disabilities and signposts for parking directives, among other features.
The General Manager, however, solicited the understanding of residents within the locations who might be affected by any inconvenience the process might cause, assuring that the government is working rigorously in regulating and improving the parking culture as part of its Traffic Management and Transportation Agenda to ensure parking is convenient, safe and secure across the state.
Recall that the Authority had recently unveiled plans to begin full implementation of parking policy in the second quarter of 2023 and has continued to sensitise the public on the need to embrace the parking culture.
By; Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
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