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Federal Government
Labor Department: Applications For U.S. Jobless Aid Edge Up To 304,000 PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:18

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits last week rose 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000. Jobless claims continue to be near pre-recession levels despite the slight increase.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, fell 4,750 to 312,000. That average has fallen from 357,500 applications over the past 12 months. It is the lowest four-week average since October 2007, just two months before the Great Recession started.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The current level of claims suggests that employers are holding on to their workers with the expectation of stronger economic growth ahead.
The modest level of claims occurs during the government's survey week for the April employment report. It indicates job gains of "200,000-plus" this month, said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
Hiring has accelerated as applications for jobless aid have fallen.
Employers added 192,000 jobs in March, according to a separate government report. That follows gains of 197,000 in February, as the unemployment rate stayed at 6.7 percent for the second straight months.
Severe winter storms in January and December shut down factories, kept shoppers away from stores, and reduced home buying. That reduced hiring and overall economic growth. Employers added 129,000 jobs in January and only 84,000 in December.
More jobs and higher incomes will be needed to spur better overall economic growth. For now, economists expect the bad winter weather contributed to weak growth of 1.5 percent to 2 percent at an annual rate in the January-March quarter. But as the weather improves, most analysts expect growth to rebound to near 3 percent.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:19
Mortgage Loan Rates Drop, Home Construction Up Slightly PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:06

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week for the second straight week as the spring home-buying season begins.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to 4.27 percent from 4.34 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage eased to 3.33 percent from 3.38 percent.
Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows about a year ago.
Many analysts have been expecting an improving economy to lift the housing market, which has been recovering over the past two years. But housing has struggled to maintain momentum. Rising home prices and higher mortgage rates have held back some potential home buyers. Others have had trouble qualifying for mortgages.
The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that U.S. home construction rose moderately in March as builders resumed work at the end of a frigid winter. But applications for building permits slid, clouding the outlook for future construction.
The increase in mortgage rates over the year was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion-a-month bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low. Indeed, the Fed has announced three $10 billion declines in its monthly bond purchases since December. The latest plan is to cut its monthly long-term bond purchases to $55 billion because it thinks the economy is steadily healing.
The Fed also said after its two-day policy meeting last month that even after it raises short-term interest rates, the job market strengthens and inflation rises, the central bank expects its benchmark short-term rate to stay unusually low.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen, in her first major speech on Fed policy, said Wednesday that the U.S. job market still needs help from the central bank and that it must remain intent on adjusting its policy to respond to unforeseen challenges.
Yellen also made clear she believes the still-subpar economic recovery will continue to need the help of low rates for some time. An increase in short-term interest rates would elevate borrowing costs and could hurt stock prices.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.7 point. The fee for a 15-year loan remained at 0.6 point.
The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 2.44 percent from 2.41 percent. The average fee held steady at 0.5 point.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage fell to 3.03 percent from 3.09 percent. The fee was unchanged at 0.5 point.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 10:08
Public Health Veteran Tapped As Acting Director Of National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 09:21

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - Dr. Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D., will succeed Dr. John Ruffin as acting head of the agency that researches health and health disparities in the minority community.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities made the appointment on Monday.
As acting director, Dr. Maddox will oversee the budget of approximately $268 million. Additionally, she will provide leadership for the minority health and health disparities research activities of NIH, which constitutes an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion.
“I commend Dr. Ruffin for his years of service to the NIH and the community that is so in need of the research supported by NIMHD,” said Dr. Maddox of her appointment. “I am looking forward to working with NIMHD staff and my other colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services to continue to advance the programs of the institute. In addition, I look forward to listening and working with the many stakeholders to assess and identify the needs of the various populations that we serve.”
Prior to joining NIMHD, Dr. Maddox served as the deputy director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, advising the director on matters regarding the institute’s budget and programs that support research on child development, developmental biology, nutrition, AIDS/HIV, intellectual and developmental disabilities, population issues, reproductive biology, contraception, pregnancy, and medical rehabilitation. Dr. Maddox has also served as the acting deputy director of the National Institutes of Health from January 2000–June 2002 and co-chaired the first NIH Strategic Plan to Reduce and Ultimately Eliminate Health Disparities.
As a cardiovascular physiologist, Dr. Maddox has served in several scientific roles at NIH and has authored numerous scientific papers and review articles and delivered keynote scientific lectures domestically and internationally. She has received many honors and awards, including the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award, Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award, HHS Career Achievement Award, Public Health Service Special Recognition Award, HHS Secretary's Award, NIH Director’s Award, National Down Syndrome Society Champion of Change Award, and Research Down Syndrome Foundation Light the Way Award. Her scientific work has been recognized by Morehouse School of Medicine with a HeLa Leadership Award for Excellence in Reproductive Medicine.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 09:22
USDA Announces Funding To Train And Educate Next Generation Of Farmers And Ranchers PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Friday, 11 April 2014 11:13

RALEIGH, (SGRToday.com) - More than $19 million in federal grant dollars is earmarked to help sustain the next generation of farmers and ranchers through what's called the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

Applications for the grants are due in June.
The grants were part of the newly approved Farm Bill. Roughly $100 million is allocated over the next five years. 
"USDA is committed to the next generation of America's farmers and ranchers because they represent the future of agriculture and are the backbone of our rural economy. As the average age of farmers continues to rise, we have no time to lose in getting more new farmers and ranchers established." said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Reauthorizing and expanding the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is one of the many resources the 2014 Farm Bill gave us to build America's agricultural future. Through this program, we can build a diverse next generation of farmers and ranchers."
The grant program is managed by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture, which will competitively award grants to organizations conducting programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers. 
Priority will be given to projects that are partnerships and collaborations led by or including non-governmental, community-based, or school-based agricultural educational organizations, according to USDA. All applicants are required to provide funds or in-kind support from non-federal sources in an amount that is at least equal to 25 percent of the federal funds requested.
More information is available on the grants during two upcoming webinars on April 30 and May 6 at 2:00 p.m. EST. The first webinar will focus on general guidelines for the program, while the second webinar will focus on the funding allocations for socially-disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers.
Last Updated on Friday, 11 April 2014 11:13

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