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1 US jobless figure fuels fear (Dominic Rushe, Phillip Inman & Katie Allen in The Guardian) The department that deals with US unemployment fuelled fears that the country’s job market recovery could have stalled when it said the economy added only 113,000 new jobs in January. Economists had been expecting around 180,000 new jobs. Last year the economy added an average of 194,000 jobs per month.
Official figures show the number of unemployed was little changed in January, at 10.2m, with the unemployment rate down just 0.1% to 6.6%. The percentage of the population in or looking for work edged up to 63% from a three-decade low of 62.8% last month. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) fell by 232,000, but the figure was probably affected by the fact that a million Americans lost their extended federal unemployment benefits at the end of December. Even so, the figure remains high at 3.6m – making up 35.8% of the ranks of the unemployed.
The jobs news comes against a background of steady improvement in many other areas of the US economy, pushing the annual rate of growth in the last three months of 2013 to 3.2%. Britain’s outlook also improved after figures showed the trade deficit narrowed sharply in December, helped by rising exports to countries beyond Europe. The boost to the UK’s trade position exceeded economists’ expectations and raised hopes that exports finally helped lift the overall economy at the end of last year after dragging on growth over the summer. But a rise in manufacturing output of 0.3% in December showed the sector failed to grow as fast as hoped.
2 India economy’s worst may not be over (Financial Express) India’s economic growth remains stunted owing to a pervasive demand slump amid high inflation, confirmed the advance estimate of national income for 2013-14 released on Friday, which pegged gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the year at just 4.9%, even on last year’s low base of 4.5%. Given the 4.6% growth in the first half, that means the economy is estimated to grow at 5.2% in the second half.
The CSO estimated a contraction in manufacturing (-0.2% growth this year against 1.1% last year), the first negative growth since 1991-92, and a slowdown in growth in the largest service segment comprising trade, hotels, transport and communication (3.5% against 5.1%). Analysts saw the sluggishness in manufacturing having spilled over to the usually resilient services sector.
Analysts said the contraction in manufacturing could drag down the annual growth in the services sector, which accounts for roughly 60% of GDP, to 6.9% in 2013-14 from 7% a year before. CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee said: “With demand not showing visible signs of a pick-up owing to weak consumption, investment and government expenditure, the green shoots of recovery have yet to become apparent.”
3 Drones proliferate as costs fall (Dawn) Drones will become an increasingly common tool of warfare and surveillance as their cost falls, a leading think-tank said, although humans will retain ultimate control over lethal strikes. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) also noted a continuing trend of Asian military spending surging ahead as European defence budgets shrink, in its annual assessment of the world’s armies.
At the launch of the Military Balance 2014 at the IISS’s London headquarters, its military aerospace expert Doug Barrie said the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, would increase, although they would continue to co-exist next to manned aircraft. He said the assumption entering the 21st century had been that autonomous drones would soon completely replace piloted planes.
The report said that drones were once seen almost exclusively in Western armed forces, but the proliferation of smaller systems had reduced costs, enabling greater use by private companies, individuals and countries with limited financial resources. However, such calculations may change if they were up against active air defence weapons. Russia and China have been developing GPS-jamming technology, the think-tank said.
In ongoing trends, the report noted the relative shift towards Asia in the balance of military power, with defence budgets in the region rising as Western ones tighten. The US remained by far the world’s biggest defence spender in 2013, with a budget of $600.4 billion, the report said, followed by China ($112.2 billion), Russia ($68.2 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($59.6 billion). In terms of defence budgets as a share of gross domestic product, Afghanistan was top on 13.8 per cent, followed by Oman (11.7 per cent), Saudi Arabia (eight per cent) and Iraq (7.2 per cent).