Newly released data shows our economy trending upward (finally)

JASON LANGE --- Reuters 

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 14-year low last week and industrial output rose sharply in September, positive signals that could help ease fears over the economic outlook.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to 264,000, the lowest level since 2000, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

A separate report from the Federal Reserve showed production at the nation's factories, mines and utilities advanced a larger-than-expected 1.0 percent last month, the biggest gain since November 2012.

The data offered evidence the economy remained on solid ground, with the labor market gaining steam. Investors in recent days have come to the view that slowing growth overseas will weigh on the U.S. economy and force the Fed to delay a hike in interest rates.

Weak retail sales data on Wednesday shook investor confidence and helped fuel a global sell-off in stock markets that continued on Thursday. U.S. stock markets were trading sharply lower.

The jobless claims report nonetheless reinforced expectations that slack in the labor market was being reduced.

"Have we achieved full employment? Not yet. Are we getting closer? Absolutely," said Stephen Stanley, an economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

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