Jobs, trade data lift economic outlook

Exports to Europe increase; 6,000 fewer file job claims

By Paul Wiseman and Christopher S. Rugaber

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 9:44 p.m. MDT

In this Friday, July 13, 2012, photo, a container ship from China is offloaded at Massport's Conley Terminal in the port of Boston. The U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level in 18 months in June, pushed down by a steep drop in oil imports and a small rise in exports. the Commerce Department said Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012 that the trade gap narrowed to $42.9 billion in June, down from $48 billion in May. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The outlook for the U.S. economy brightened a little Thursday after new data pointed to improvement in hiring and more exports.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 361,000, the Labor Department said. Economists noted that the level suggests the modest job creation in July could carry over into August.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed to $42.9 billion in June from $48 billion in May, the Commerce Department said in a separate report. That's the lowest level in 18 months.

The drop was largely because of cheaper oil imports. But exports also rose to a record-high $185 billion, an encouraging sign at a time when global growth has slowed. U.S. companies even sold more goods in Europe, despite the region's financial crisis.

Some economists revised their growth forecasts higher for the April-June quarter after seeing the better trade data. A smaller trade deficit acts as less of a drag on growth because it means the United States is spending less on foreign-made products and is taking in more from sales of U.S.-made goods.

"As long as we can keep selling more of our goods across the world, the economy can (grow) at a moderate pace," said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors. "In June, despite all the craziness in Europe ... our exports managed to increase."

The economy is looking more resilient after faltering in the spring.

Employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the biggest increase since February. From April through June, employers had created a lackluster 73,000 jobs a month, not enough to keep up with a rising population.

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