If you've watched Wall Street lately, you know global tumult has rattled investors. But if anyone's looking for encouraging economic news, look no further than the new figures from the Labor Department on initial unemployment claims.
The number of people who applied for U.S. jobless benefits fell 23,000 to 264,000 in the week that ended Oct. 11, hitting the lowest level since April 2000, showing that employers are laying off few workers, according to government data released Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits to bump up to 289,000 in the latest weekly data from 287,000 in the prior week.
The four-week average of new claims, a smoother barometer of labor-market trends, fell by 4,250 to 283,500, also reaching the lowest level since 2000, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
That's not a typo -- jobless claims have improved to a level unseen in 14 years,
That said, to reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
It's easy to remember political debates in which a candidate performed so poorly, it helped ruin his or her career. It's also not hard to think of some debate performances that were so impressive, they are remembered as an important part of a politician's legacy.
But last night in South Florida was something altogether different: the most memorable moment in a televised gubernatorial debate occurred when one candidate hid backstage, briefly refusing to participate.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist stood alone on stage for a visibly awkward four long minutes as Republican Gov. Rick Scott refused to come out, claiming that the small fan below his opponent's podium violated debate rules.
CBS Miami moderators fumbled over their words, announcing initially that both candidates were "not stepping up on the stage" due to "an extremely peculiar situation." They then quickly introduced Crist, who walked out and took his spot behind the podium.
The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo noted that Scott supporters "privately" said that the moment the governor refused to go onstage "was the moment he lost the election."
For context, it's worth noting that the high yesterday in South Florida was, quite literally, 90 degrees with high humidity. I don't care what your politics are -- if you're wearing a suit on a hot day in the subtropics, getting ready to stand under stage lights for an hour, a small fan seems like a rather modest, sane idea.
But according to Scott and his team, fans were against the rules, prompting the governor to throw an odd tantrum.
The Democratic challenger seized the opportunity to stand alone on the stage. "Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state?" Crist asked. "I mean, really."
The former governor added Scott's absence was "the ultimate pleading of the Fifth I ever heard" -- a brutal reference to the Republican taking the Fifth 75 times during a deposition in which Scott didn't want to talk about his company's Medicare fraud.
The incumbent governor eventually realized his absence was hurting his cause, but after Scott emerged, his explanation for his behavior was just as strange as his conduct.
Rachel Maddow provides a detailed description of the pathology of Ebola, from the nitty-gritty of its symptoms to its development in a person over time, as a means to understanding the protocols for its handling and the likelihood of its spreading. watch
Dr. Adam Levine, member of the International Medical Corps' Emergency Response Team, talks with Rachel Maddow about the hard facts of Ebola's symptoms and spread, and how to properly protect health care workers treating Ebola patients. watch
Rachel Maddow shares video of the most bizarre beginning to a political debate in recent memory as Florida governor, Rick Scott, initially refused to join a debate with former governor Charlie Crist over objections to Crist's use of a fan. watch
Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Judge, talks with Rachel Maddow about lessons learned at the center of the nation's only cases of Ebola transmission and how Dallas is preparing for the possibility of more cases among the workers who treated Thomas Eric... watch
Rachel Maddow shares a newly released photo of Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker in a tuxedo, receiving an award for excelling at outsourcing jobs, though job creation has been part of his campaign platform. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that with less than three weeks to go before the midterm elections, and with some states already early voting, polls are showing statistical ties in several high profile races, increasing the danger of cheating. watch
* Ebola: "A second nurse at a hospital here tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday, the third case of disease confirmed in Dallas in the span of 15 days and the first to heighten fears far beyond the city."
* Related news: "The latest Dallas nurse to contract Ebola boarded a plane in Cleveland two days ago with a slight fever and should not have flown, federal health officials said Wednesday. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters that the nurse had a temperature of 99.5 degrees before she got on the plane on Monday."
* Nurses' union: "Nurses responding to Ebola in the United States have been poorly trained and provided with inadequate equipment, the nurses' union National Nurses United (NNU) alleged during a heated conference call on Wednesday."
* Texas: "Hours after officials confirmed that a second health care worker had tested positive for Ebola in Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry said that he would cut his pre-scheduled European trip short and return to his home state tomorrow, his office confirmed to NBC News Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Perry's spokesman said the governor had no plans to return early 'at this point.'"
* ISIS: "Fighters from the Islamic State were mustering with tanks, armored vehicles and heavy weapons on Wednesday near a strategically located rural town about 25 miles west of Baghdad in the embattled province of Anbar, local officials said."
* Wall Street "had for the most part shrugged off a recent slide in global stock markets, viewing the declines as an adjustment that was bound to take place after so many years of uninterrupted gains. That complacent view was upended on Wednesday."
* The final, official tally: "The government says the deficit for the just completed 2014 budget year was $483 billion, the lowest of President Barack Obama's six years in office. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says it's an indication the economy is far healthier than when Obama became president in January 2009. The deficit is at its lowest since 2008. When the deficit is measured against the size of the economy, it's below the average deficits of the past 40 years."
There's a fair amount of public anxiety about the Ebola virus, and it's important to have U.S. officials communicating clearly and effectively with the public so Americans understand the nature of the problem. That might ordinarily be the job of the U.S. Surgeon General, but as of now, we don't actually have one.
As regular readers may recall, President Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy to the post nearly a year ago, and at first blush, this seemed like a no-brainer -- Murthy is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He's an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate, so when Obama nominated him for the post, no one questioned his qualifications.
But Murthy, like so many in his field, also sees a connection between gun violence and public health, which meant Republicans and the NRA decided to destroy his nomination. Senate Democrats could have confirmed him anyway, but red-state Dems got election-year jitters, which means. at least for now, Murthy has been temporarily derailed and the Surgeon General's office is empty during a public-health scare.
"You would normally think that in something like this, the Surgeon General would be in charge, but right now at this point oddly, the United States of America does not have a Surgeon General. His nomination is tied up in politics."
Well, yes, I suppose that's true, though it only tells part of the story -- and it conveniently obscures Fox News' role in trying to tear Murthy down during the confirmation process.