Weekly Economic Update-Lowering the Temperature

The employment picture wasn’t quite as bright in the first quarter of 2018 as in the last one in 2017, largely because of a disappointing March report. Weather was probably to blame for the drop in construction jobs, but unemployment was stable and wages were up.
Maybe this wasn’t the week we needed to be warned about social media, but TransUnion has other advice about the hooks the bad guys use when “phishing” for our data on-line.

The country is still effectively at full employment; the unemployment rate has spent six months at 4.1%, but things did soften a bit in the first quarter of this year. The March Employment Situation Report reported an increase of 103,000 jobs, well below the forecast of 175,000. The average for the first three months of 2018 was 202,000 compared to 221,000 in the 4th Quarter of 2017. In addition to disappointing numbers in March, there was a net of 50,000 fewer jobs after January and February numbers were revised.

A slight cooling in the labor market isn’t all bad, Econoday said it also lowers the heat on the Federal Reserve to raise rates more quickly. Another positive, wages increased 0.3% compared to February, and 2.7% year-over-year, 0.1% more than the January gain.

While the whole report counts, we tend to focus on construction jobs. They had been increasing, raising hopes for more new houses, but the numbers fell back by 15,000 in March. Not really a worry however, given the unspring-like spring weather in a lot of the country.

Timely Advice

TransUnion, the credit report people, has some advice for those millions who have already fallen victim to data breaches. It seems that stolen information can be used by the bad guys to “phish” for even more financial information.

TransUnion issues the following warnings:

Watch out for social networking sites. Pop-up ads, tweets, and friends’ status updates can contain links to criminal portholes designed to steal financial information. Avoid clicking on questionable links or entering login or financial information where you are required to navigate to a different site.

Watch out for misspelled domain names. One letter off a legitimate URL can put you on a site that looks like one for a legitimate brand--but is not.

Criminals sometimes use legitimate URLs, even purchasing security certificates to appear authentic.

It isn’t as easy to spot a scam as it used to be. No longer are emails and websites riddled with misspellings and bad grammar. They can appear highly polished and very much like a site you know and trust. Doublecheck the legitimacy of an email asking for information by calling the company’s customer service and never submit financial info via email.

This new criminal sophistication also makes it difficult for search engines to identify and block phishing sites and their content, even when it is a clone of a legitimate site.

TransUnion says we shouldn’t be web paranoid, but careful browsing and frequent credit report reviews are mandatory these days.



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