The Labor Department will report unemployment figures for November on Friday. The jobless rate was at a 30-year low of 3.9% in October, and Wall Street is banking on a rise in unemployment, which will take some pressure off wages and inflation. Indeed, job cuts have been mounting recently. New claims for unemployment benefits rose to 358,000 during the week of Thanksgiving, according to Labor Department figures. Help-wanted ads in major newspapers, meantime, are fewer than a year ago, according to a tally kept by the Conference Board.
Sentiment is building on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve's next move will be to cut interest rates. The Fed raised the overnight bank lending rate target six times between June 1999 and this May in an effort to cool the pace of economic growth and contain the threat of accelerating inflation. The Fed's policymaking panel next meets Dec. 19. The "beige book," a regional economic report due from the Fed on Wednesday, will probably help policymakers gauge the magnitude of the economic slowdown.