News from the economic front:
- Senate OKs jobs bill for Obama's signature - AP/The Buffalo News
Companies that hire unemployed workers will get a temporary payroll tax holiday under a bill that easily won congressional approval Wednesday in what Democrats hope is just the first of several election-year measures aimed at boosting hiring.
The 68-29 bipartisan vote in the Senate sent the legislation to the White House, where President Barack Obama was expected to sign it into law Thursday. Eleven Republicans voted for the legislation, an impressive tally considering the politically charged atmosphere on Capitol Hill.
It was the first of several jobs bills promised by Democrats, though there's plenty of skepticism that the measure will do much to actually create jobs. Optimistic estimates predict the tax break could generate perhaps 250,000 jobs through the end of the year, but that would be just a tiny fraction of the 8.4 million jobs lost since the start of the recession.
- First-time jobless claims drop slightly - AP/The Buffalo News
The number of newly laid-off workers requesting jobless benefits fell slightly last week for the third straight time. But initial claims remain above levels that would signal net job gains.
New claims for unemployment insurance fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That nearly matched analysts' estimates of 455,000, according to Thomson Reuters.
- Consumer prices were unchanged in February - AP/The Buffalo News
Consumer prices were flat last month, as the weak economy limits the ability of companies to charge more for goods and services.
The Labor Department's report Thursday indicates there is little sign of inflation, which enables the Federal Reserve to keep the short-term interest rate it controls at a record low in an effort to revive the economy.
- Leading indicators rise more slowly in February - AP/The Buffalo News
A private research group says its gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer.
-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News