WASHINGTON – The number of people seeking U.S. jobless aid fell sharply last week, partially reversing two weeks of big gains that had raised concerns about rising layoffs.Weekly applications for unemployment aid dropped 16,000 to 278,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That followed a jump to 294,000 in the previous week, which was the highest level since February 2015. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 275,500.Applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have been below 300,000, a historically low level, for 63 straight weeks. That’s the longest such streak since 1973, when the nation’s population was smaller. That suggests companies are confident in the economy and willing to hold onto their staffs. Hiring is also typically solid when applications are so low.Even with tepid economic growth, hiring has mostly been solid this year. The economy expanded just 0.5 per cent at an annual rate from January through March, after growing only 1.4 per cent at the end of last year.Employers added 160,000 jobs in April, the fewest since September and below an average of about 240,000 in the previous 12 months. Still, job gains at that level are sufficient to keep the unemployment rate falling over time. The rate stayed at 5 per cent last month.There are signs that the economy is rebounding after its soft patch, which is likely to propel further job gains. Home construction and manufacturing output rose modestly. And retail sales increased at a healthy clip last month, evidence that steady hiring is encouraging more spending.A rebound in growth could make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will increase the short-term interest rate it controls as soon as its next meeting in June. According to records from its April meeting, Fed officials will consider boosting the rate for only the second time in nine years at that meeting if the economy keeps improving. by Christopher S. Rugaber, The Associated Press Posted May 19, 2016 6:33 am MDT Last Updated May 19, 2016 at 11:20 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email FILE – In this Wednesday, March 30, 2016, file photo, job recruiters work their booths at a job fair in Pittsburgh. On Thursday, May 19, 2016, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits in the previous week. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File) Fewer people sought US jobless benefits last week read more

Alberta seeks public input into 2017-2018 budget; says no new major spending by John Cotter, The Canadian Press Posted Jan 9, 2017 11:57 am MDT Last Updated Jan 9, 2017 at 2:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email EDMONTON – The Alberta government says it wants to hear from the public before it finishes the upcoming budget.Consultations are to include invitation-only meetings this month in nine communities as well as a phone-in meeting involving Premier Rachel Notley.Finance Minister Joe Ceci says there will be no new major spending in the financial plan that is expected to be tabled in March.The government, still faced with soft oil prices, is looking for ideas on how it can control and cut spending without affecting key programs.“We will continue to slow the rate of spending by finding efficiencies in government, but we need your help in doing so,” Ceci said Monday.“I’ll be asking them what choices should we make as a government to control spending.”Ceci said the government is still forecasting a $10.8-billion deficit for the current fiscal year that ends March 31.A Finance Department spokesman said members of the legislature have been tasked with inviting people to attend the meetings to be held in Edmonton, Stony Plain, Vegreville, Grande Prairie, Fairview, Red Deer, Redwater, Calgary and Medicine Hat.The meetings will not be open to the general public.Telephone phone-in meetings are to be held Jan. 30 and 31.Ceci said people are also being urged to submit their budget ideas to the government online until Feb. 3.In the government’s last budget update, Ceci said new jobs were being created and Alberta’s housing market was stabilizing. But real GDP for the current fiscal year is expected to fall by 2.8 per cent due mainly to the effects of the Fort McMurray wildfire last spring.Ceci said in November that the government expects the economy to rebound in the coming fiscal year and grow by 2.3 per cent. read more