The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits plunged in the last week, according to federal Labor Department data, signaling to some economists an uptick in the pace of hiring.

Nationally, jobless claims in the Jan. 8-14 period fell to the lowest level since April 2008 when the Great Recession was strangling the U.S. economy. The numbers are even more promising when measured against the four-week average of unemployment claims, showing a decline from more than 382,000 to 379,000.

With an economic slump in Europe deepening, the numbers may be a sign that companies are looking to expand their workforces as U.S. sales climb, according to Bloomberg News.

The news is encouraging, Brian Jones, a senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, told Bloomberg News. “You’ve got a gradual improvement in the labor market,”

But the pace is not enough to buoy urban employment hopes, according to elected officials in the nation’s cities. According to those gathered in Washington last week for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, job growth is still at a crawl with 125 U.S. cities showing no change in job opportunities as of a month ago.

“The economic recovery is too slow, and it is a direct result of the inaction of this Congress in 2011,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in a speech at the Conference of Mayors meeting. “Our cities cannot afford another season of failure.”

According to a recent report by the Conference of Mayors, real family income declined 7.1 percent between 1999 and 2010, dropping from $53,252 to $49,455.

For the bottom 10 percent of earners in the country, the report said, real median income has declined by 12.1 percent.

What’s more, the report said, although 30 percent of all the jobs lost nationwide in the recession have been recovered, for the top 22 percent of urban areas hit hardest by the recession, job growth isn’t predicted to make a full turnaround for another five years.

By the end of 2012, U.S. Conference of Mayors analysts expect 48 percent of all jobs lost in the recession to be recovered, with one out of every 363 metro areas showing improvement in employment.

Related Post: Black Unemployment Rates Higher Now than at Recession’s Peak, Labor Experts Say

 

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer