economy

The nation's unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August even though just 114,000 jobs were added to private and public payrolls, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Those hard-to-reconcile figures — a decline in the jobless rate even though job growth was relatively weak — appear to be at least partly explained by a sharp increase in the number of Americans who found part-time jobs and counted themselves as employed.

With the first presidential debate now behind us, what's the next big item on the campaign calendar?

It's Friday's 8:30 a.m. ET release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the September unemployment rate and how many jobs were added to payrolls last month.

As this presidential election year was kicking off, strategists were saying the focus would be on the economy. But now — even as absentee ballots are being filled in — the candidates are still dodging details about how to improve growth.

"President Obama doesn't have a plan," says Kevin Hassett, an economic adviser to Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Jeffrey Liebman, an economic adviser to President Obama, says Romney has revealed no plan other than "going back to the failed policies of the past decade."

The income gap is receiving much attention lately as more Americans are isolating themselves around "people like us."

More accurately, they surround themselves with people who earn similar incomes, and it is now fueling a rise in residential segregation. One recent study suggests the income gap might be greater today than even during colonial times – even when you account for slavery.

Louisiana jobless rate dips as labor force shrinks

Sep 21, 2012

Unemployment ticked down in Louisiana in August as some people left the labor force.

The state's jobless rate fell to 7.4 percent, down from 7.6 percent in July but above the 7.3 percent unemployment rate of August 2011.

Louisiana's jobless rate never rose as high as the nation's, and fell to a post-recession low of 6.9 percent in January. Since then, jobless rates had risen in five out of six months. August was the first improvement since January.

Median household income has dropped across the metro area, even as poverty rates have risen, according to a report just released by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is backing nearly $14 million in state construction spending to build a new automobile technology training center at Baton Rouge Community College.

The center will educate students seeking careers in the auto industry, part of a local community effort to bolster skills training in the area.

The governor announced Wednesday that he'll ask the Bond Commission to back the funding through the state's construction budget, the final step to fund the project.

Construction on the training center is expected to begin in 2014.

Members of Congress are about to flee Capitol Hill, and they'll be gone until Nov. 13, one week after Election Day.

As they shift to full-time campaigning, lawmakers are leaving behind many questions about the "fiscal cliff," a massive cluster of automatic spending cuts and tax-break expirations that come together around year's end.

For more, see this story from NPR's Marilyn Geewax on how Congress might pass some stopgap measures to blunt the effect of the fiscal cliff.

A bunch of federal tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to kick in around Jan. 1, 2013. This is what people are talking about when they talk about the "fiscal cliff."

There were 382,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, down by just 3,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says.

Meanwhile, "the 4-week moving average was 377,750, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's revised average of 375,750." That figure offers a slightly better look at the trend.

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