Job market improving, retailers get boost at end of '11

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After a tumultuous 2011, the economy is ending the year on an upswing. The job market is showing signs it's improving, holiday spending gave retailers a boost, gas prices are going down and stocks are higher.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits last week was half what it was at its peak in March 2009. The number applying or unemployment benefits last week in the U.S. was 366,000.Employers have added at least 100,000 jobs for the past five months in a row. Nationally, unemployment was 8.6 percent in November, the lowest it has been since March 2009.

Missouri's November unemployment rate was lower, at 8.2 percent, while unemployment in the Cape Girardeau Metropolitan Statistical Area in November was 6.6 percent, down more than 2 percent since January.

Missouri added 10,900 manufacturing jobs from December 2010 through November 2011, according to a report last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Holiday shoppers appear to have spent more this year, a sign of increasing consumer confidence.

The National Retail Federation expected holiday sales to rise 3.8 percent this year to a record $469.1 billion. The organization's initial forecast, announced Oct. 6, called for sales growth of just 2.8 percent, but was revised shortly before Christmas in response to increased spending.

Perhaps falling gas prices are freeing up funds for more holiday gifts this year. The current national average is $3.23 a gallon, down from $3.89 in May. Missouri's current average price is $2.98 a gallon, according to the website Gasbuddy.com. Current prices in Cape Girardeau range from $3.19 to $3.03 a gallon.

* The Best Years, the Southeast Missourian's monthly magazine for mature, active readers, will debut a whole new look Jan. 3.

The 24-page tabloid, inserted in the Southeast Missourian, will introduce several new features, including a "5 Things to Do This Month" page, puzzles, photos of people around town, features on local people, and short stories on health, finance, entertainment and more.

Along with editorial updates, TBY will have a new design. Stories and columns will be organized by category, and an introductory page will have a table of contents and editor's letter.

TBY publishes the first Monday of every month, reaching more than 46,000 readers. It is inserted in the Southeast Missourian and also distributed on racks at area businesses. It is one of some 15 special publications produced by the Southeast Missourian.

* Dr. Sarah Holt author, professor and administrator for Cape Surgical Clinic Inc & Breast Care Center, Cape Medical Billing Corp. and the Doctors' Park complex is launching a medical insurance course in Cape Girardeau.

With the recent release of her latest book, "Medical Office Billing: A Self-Study Training Manual," she has created a course for both existing medical professionals as well as those looking to increase their marketability.

The course will take place over a 15-week period and will be taught by Holt. The course begins Jan. 19 and will take place weekly. For more information or to register, contact Sarah Holt at 573-334-3074 or Kim Massa at 314-991-7884 kim.massa@wfadvisors.com.

Southeast Missourian business editor Melissa Miller may be contacted at 388-3646 or mmiller@semissourian.com.

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