In the week that ended March 31, jobless claims droppedto 357,000—the lowest they have been in four years, according to new numbers from the Labor Department. Pennsylvania posted the biggest drop in claims—1,956—while Texas posted the highest jump—4,185. The steady gains that have been happening since the fall are likely due to fewer layoffs and the strengthening of the labor market, as proved once again by last month's private-sector jobs numbers.
Auto sales were on the upswing in March, thanks to a thirst for fuel-efficient vehicles and the unseasonably warm weather. Automakers sold 1.4 million light vehicles last month, with hybrids and more efficient models leading the way. General Motors sold over 100,000 models that get 30+ miles to the gallon—accounting for almost half of the 231,052 cars sold in March. U.S. sales on Toyota Prius hybrids jumped 54 percent last month to 28,711 cars—a record for the company. Chrysler had the best month of sales it has had in four years—a 34 percent jump from this time last year.
"We won without winning!" So said longshot candidate George Wallace after taking a surprising 34 percent of the vote in the 1964 Wisconsin primary, but it might as well be a prediction of how Rick Santorum will try to frame today's primaries. Mitt Romney is comfortably ahead in Maryland and the District of Columbia (where Santorum isn't even on the ballot), and the front-runner is currently ahead 7.5 percent in Real Clear Politics' average of the polls in Wisconsin.
A new report from the Institute for Supply Management shows that manufacturing employment reached a nine-month high in March, and that the manufacturing sector is on a 32-month growth streak. The steady growth in the United States is a marked contrast from Europe, where manufacturing hit a three-month low last month. The healthy manufacturing numbers released yesterday are further fueling economists' predictions that the March jobs numbers—scheduled to be released Friday—will again top 200,000.
As the 2012 Republican nomination contest peters to a close, each successive primary becomes less exciting than the last. Tomorrow's Wisconsin, Maryland, and D.C. primaries are no Super Tuesday, and April's slate of races looks to be the most Romney-friendly yet. The contest in Wisconsin is particularly odd because the state's GOP elite is almost unanimously pro-Romney—a consensus that the front-runner has lacked in other bellwether states. The pro-Romney bandwagon is partly due to the fact we're in the primary's coda, but there's a state-specific reason too. The Wisconsin GOP isn't thinking about tomorrow—they're thinking about June 5 and Governor Scott Walker's recall election.