Jobless claims fall, but hiring gains seem far off - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Jobless claims fall, but hiring gains seem far off

WASHINGTON. - Although fewer people are claiming unemployment benefits, the number isn't yet low enough to signal that the economy is close to gaining jobs.

That's according to a private economist, Abiel Reinhart of JPMorgan Chase.

The number of new claims dropped last week to 502,000, the lowest number since January, but Reinhart says the number would have to fall to the high 400s to indicate that the economy could soon produce even a slight gain in jobs.

He says that level of claims could be reached by January and that the economy could start gaining jobs sometime in the first quarter of next year. Still, he doesn't expect the gains to be strong enough to push down the unemployment rate until the second quarter.

Deficit sets October record

The federal deficit hit a record for October as the new budget year began where the old one ended, with the government awash in red ink.

The Treasury Department says the deficit for October totaled $176.4 billion, even higher than the $150 billion imbalance that economists expected.

The deficit for the 2009 budget year, which ended on Sept. 30, set an all-time record in dollar terms of $1.42 trillion. That was $958 billion above the 2008 deficit, the previous record holder.

Economists worry such deficits could push up interest rates, adding a further drag on the fragile economic recovery.

Buffett, Gates tell students worst is behind us

The world's two richest men say capitalism is still alive and well despite lingering shocks from the longest, deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett told a group of students at Columbia University in New York that the financial panic is behind the nation, and the bottom has come in stocks.

Buffett was joined by his friend and fellow billionaire Bill Gates. The two men fielded questions from Columbia Business School students on the recession, investing, mentors and what company might be the next Microsoft.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says the economic problems of the past couple years proved that "we can make mistakes" but the fundamentals of America's capitalist system remain sound.

Buffett exhorted students to marry the right person and said, the worst investment they could have is cash.

Buffett and Gates, who serves on the board of Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway, last held a similar forum with students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2005.

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