U.S. economy flashing conflicting signals in areas like housing, spending and jobs

By Christopher S. Rugaber

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Sept. 30 2012 9:18 p.m. MDT

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply in the week ending Sept. 22. That suggests that the weak job market could strengthen. Employers added just 96,000 jobs in August — barely enough to keep up with the growth of the working-age population. The unemployment rate did fall to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent. But that was because many people gave up looking for work, so they were no longer counted as unemployed.

Looking Ahead: The September jobs report will come out Friday. Economists think the economy will show a modest gain of about 100,000 jobs. Given employers' anxiety about the U.S. fiscal cliff and Europe's economic crisis, few expect a significant pickup in hiring soon.

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