The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

March 7, 2014

A look at US job market on eve of February data

(Continued)

The plight of many of these people has worsened. That's because unemployment benefits were cut off late last year for 1.4 million who have been out of work for six months or more. That's when an emergency federal program for the long-term unemployed expired. The National Employment Law Project estimates that an additional 600,000 long-term unemployed workers would still be receiving benefits if Congress had renewed the emergency program.

Searching for a job was one of the conditions for receiving benefits. Many economists think some portion of these people likely stopped looking for a job last month.

Most economists say the loss of those benefits could slow economic growth if many people who lost benefits haven't found a job. Without unemployment checks, those 1.4 million people have less money to spend on groceries, housing and transportation. And 70 percent of all economic activity flows from consumer spending.

— EMPLOYER DEMAND

The monthly jobs report is widely followed. But many economists pay close attention to a more obscure indicator: job openings online. The private Conference Board said this week that advertised openings in February rose 268,100 to 5.19 million. This increase matters because it points to pent-up demand for workers, even if recent government data suggests otherwise.

"That speaks volumes that it's not all dire straits out there," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. "That alone gives me hope that we will see stronger numbers in the next few months, if not in February itself."

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