Business Highlights

Oklahoman Published: March 18, 2014

Business briefs

U.S. unemployment is lower

Unemployment rates fell in 43 U.S. states in January as more Americans began looking for work and most quickly found jobs. The Labor Department said Monday that the unemployment rate rose in just one state — Iowa — where the rate increased to 4.3 percent from 4.2 percent. Still, that’s far below the national rate of 6.6 percent that month. Rates were unchanged in six states. The data demonstrates that the steady decline in the unemployment rate nationwide has been broad-based, occurring throughout much of the country. The overall U.S. unemployment rate has fallen 1 percentage point in the past 12 months.

Homebuilders gain confidence

U.S. homebuilders’ confidence in the housing market edged higher this month, reflecting improved demand for new homes as the traditional spring home-selling season ramps up. But the outlook for sales of single-family homes over the next six months dimmed slightly as builders continue to grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, ready-to-build land and rising building materials costs. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose to 47. That’s up from February’s reading of 46. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

T-Bill interest rates stay static

Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were unchanged in Monday’s auction. The Treasury Department auctioned $25 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.050 percent, unchanged from last week. An additional $23 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.080 percent, also holding steady from last week. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,998.74 while a six-month bill sold for $9,995.96. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.051 percent for the three-month bills and 0.081 percent for the six-month bills. Separately, the Federal Reserve said that the weekly report on the average yield for one-year Treasury bills would not be released Monday due to a snow storm that closed federal government offices in Washington.

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