Economists remain hopeful about the positive signs exhibited by the economy in recent weeks, with new applications for unemployment benefits holding near pre-recession levels and factory activity picking up in the Mid-Atlantic region in April.
This comes after the brutal weather slowed growth through the winter months.
“The economy is stronger than you think,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York, told Reuters.
Labor Department numbers issued today show that initial claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended April 12. That put them still close to the 6 1/2-year low touched the prior week.
While this positive economic report spins through the news cycle, two unlikely Senate colleagues are trying to improve the employment chances for young people, who are still facing extremely tough job conditions. Senate newcomers Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican tea party favorite Tim Scott of South Carolina have come together to introduce a joint bill that offers tax credits to employers who expand the number of registered apprenticeships they offer — a bill both say would particularly benefit African-American and other young adults of color.
The two senators, the only African Americans in that exclusive body, have become friends, as Scott has taken it upon himself to show Booker the ropes since he was sworn in on Oct. 31. According to a profile on BET.com, the two men — the most junior members of the Senate — want to act as role models for their colleagues, demonstrating how to work through their political differences and break through the gridlock.
“On my first day, when I didn’t even know where the bathrooms were,” Booker said. Scott embraced him and demonstrated a “real generous spirit.”
They met while dining at the same restaurant and had a chance to bond outside of the floors of Congress.
“It was clear to me, listening to Sen. Scott in an impersonal setting, that here is a guy who is driven by so many of the same values and wanting to come to the Senate to address problems and not to just be posturing or spewing the kind of rhetoric that I think makes many Americans disgusted,” Booker, 44, told BET.com.
Scott, 48 — Booker calls him “old man”— said the key for them is being able to go outside of one’s comfort zone, which Scott said Booker mastered as mayor of Newark and continues to do in the Senate.
“My [feeling] has always been that I’ll work with anyone, anywhere, anytime, who wants to address real issues and that’s our goal,” Scott said. “If we can get more folks involved, that’s fantastic, but we’re going to go where the need is and meet those needs.”
Members of the House have been talking about creating a companion bill to their legislation, meaning it could actually become law. But the two men don’t want to stop there: they want to produce more bills together related to education, criminal justice, the war on drugs and other issues that are critical to the African-American community and the nation.
“We polled it and New Jersey [voters] are upset with partisan gridlock, and people who can’t work together, can’t sit down with each other,” Booker said. “I came down here not to be a great Democrat, [but] a great American and that involves relationships and partnerships with people across the aisle who actually deliver for the people.”