Jeremy Hobson: The government said this morning that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to 366,000. That is the lowest level since May of 2008.

For more, let's bring in Ellen Zentner. She's senior U.S. economist at Nomura Securities, and she's with us live now from New York. Hi Ellen.

Ellen Zentner: Hi, good morning.

Chiotakis: Good morning. So is this number all about seasonal factors? I know there's a lot of people being hired for short-term holiday jobs -- or is this really good news?

Zentner: I'm going to venture to say that it's really good news. You know, retailers hire more strongly around the holiday season every year, and the Department of Labor -- the government outfit that officially puts out these intial first jobless claims data -- they account for that in these numbers. So they adjust to account for the fact that retailers typically hire strongly around this time of year. We're taking this decline in initial jobless claims in the latest week as a good sign that job growth is accelerating.

Chiotakis: Okay, a good sign. Now, what about this sign coming from Washington? We're less than two days away now from another possible government shutdown if Congress can't pass this short-term spending bill. What are your economic concerns as you look at what's happening in Washington?

Zentner: Well, the concern for the U.S. economy is that all of this policy uncertainty coming out of Washington certainly does not help household confidence, it doesn't help business confidence. It really impacted the U.S. economy over the summer months when we were, at that time, looking at a possible government shutdown.

Here we are going throught these same issues again, and I fear that they're not going to lessen much in 2012, surrounding the national elections. And so, you know, it just underscores the fact that people are very concerned about problems going on in Europe and how they might affect us here in the U.S., but we have problems of our own here. And it's stemming from our own government and the indecision and failure to work together..

Chiotakis: Ellen Zentner, senior U.S. economist at Nomura Securities,
thanks so much.

Zentner: Thank you.

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