Economic healing. More signs this week that the economy is improving. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits has fallen to a near four-year low, suggesting the labor market recovery is gaining steam. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, according to the Labor Department, the lowest level since March 2008. This number should be low enough to move the unemployment rate downward. In a separate report, the Commerce Department said housing starts rose 1.5 percent to an annual rate of 699,000 units last month, also beating economists' expectations.
Politics and the economy. Both of these developments are good signs for President Obama's reelection chances. IHS Global Insight's Nigel Gault and Erik Johnson looked at past elections, ran the numbers through a complicated model, and concluded that Obama has a good chance of winning if the unemployment rate falls to 7.5 percent. We're still a ways from that number, but the trend is in that direction.
Colorado Senate committee passes civil unions bill. Another nationwide trend is in the direction of so-called same sex marriages and civil unions. A bill seeking to create same-sex civil unions in Colorado passed the state Senate's Judiciary Committee on a 5-2 vote last Wednesday, with one Republican voting with Democrats. Hundreds of people packed the capitol for the emotionally charged hearing. Colorado already has a designated beneficiary law, which allows anyone-married or not-the access they need to care for each other. Marriage supporters point out that efforts toward civil unions are really aimed at eventually redefining marriage. Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman in 2006, and rejected an initiative virtually identical to the civil unions bill in the same election.
Legal group calls for day of prayer. With this Colorado bill, and in fact a wave of bills sweeping through state legislatures and a major court decision in California overturning Proposition 8, which defended traditional marriage, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has set aside Feb. 26 as National Day to Pray for Marriage. "No court should presume to redefine marriage," said ADF senior counsel Brian Raum, "or undercut the democratic process by taking the power to preserve marriage out of the hands of the people."