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U.S. economy hobbled by weak hiring

A trio of reports Thursday offered a reminder that the U.S. economy is struggling to grow and add jobs.

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits last week stayed near a level that signals only weak hiring in September.

Manufacturing shrank for a fifth straight month in the Philadelphia region, a sign that weaker global growth has hurt demand for American-made goods.

And a measure of future economy activity declined for the second time in three months.

The data followed a poor month of hiring in August; Last week, the Federal Reserve moved to launch new stimulus measures to give the hobbled recovery a jolt. "There certainly doesn't appear to be much improvement in the performance of the economy," said Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. "Manufacturing continues to soften and decelerate. We shouldn't expect to see substantial gains in hiring or output from manufacturers any time soon."

Yesterday's reports showed:

Weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell by only 3,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 382,000, the Labor Department said.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its September index of regional manufacturing activity stayed below zero, which signals contraction in the market. The region includes firms in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

The Conference Board said its index of leading indicators dipped 0.1 percent in August. The index is intended to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.

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