U.S. Economy

     (CN) – Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, the government said Thursday. Meanwhile new-home sales declined 6 percent in May and long-term mortgage rates are on the rise.
     The drop in unemployment applications is seen as evidence that employers are holding onto their staffs and may even step up hiring.
     According to the U.S. Labor Department, weekly applications dropped 18,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 259,000, the lowest in two months.
     Applications are considered a sign of layoffs and have remained below 300,000 for 68 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1973.
     Just 2.14 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment receiving benefits, 4.6 percent lower than a year earlier.
     In other economic news, the Commerce Department reported Thursday that new-home sales declined 6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 551,000 from a downwardly revised 586,000 in April.
     Despite this, sales are 6.4 percent higher year-to-date, the government said.
     May’s median sales price was up 1 percent from a year ago to $290,400. That figure would likely have been higher if not for the steep monthly declines in the pricier Northeast and Western regions.
     Northeast sales slumped 33 percent from April to May while the West suffered a 15.6 percent decline. Sales barely slipped in the South but improved 12.9 percent in the traditionally affordable Midwest.
     Meanwhile, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage edged up to 3.56 percent from a 52-week low of 3.54 percent last week.
     The rate is down from 4.02 percent a year ago.
     The average rate on the 15-year fixed rate mortgage also rose — to 2.83 percent from a 52-week low of 2.81 percent. A year ago, the 15-year rate stood at 3.21 percent.

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