This just in via email from Indiana Department of Workforce Development <email@example.com>:
Private Sector Employment Again Reaches Preliminary Record Peak
INDIANAPOLIS(Jan. 18, 2019) – Indiana’s unemployment rate stands at 3.6 percent for December and remains lower than the national rate of 3.9 percent. With the exception of one month when it was equal (October 2014), Indiana’s unemployment rate now has been below the U.S. rate for more than five years. The monthly unemployment rate is a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicator that reflects the number of unemployed people seeking employment within the prior four weeks as a percentage of the labor force.
Indiana’s labor force had a net increase of 1,543 over the previous month. This was a result of an increase of 83 unemployed residents and an increase of 1,460 employed residents. Indiana’s total labor force, which includes both Hoosiers employed and those seeking employment, stands at 3.40 million, and the state’s 65.1 percent labor force participation rate remains above the national rate of 63.1 percent.
This just in via email from IRS Newswire <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
Issue Number: IR-2019-02
Changes strengthen program
Free File can also help navigate new tax law provisions
WASHINGTON — An improved version of IRS Free File begins its 17th filing season today as a dozen private-sector partners offer their brand-name products to help eligible taxpayers navigate the new tax reform law and electronically prepare their tax returns.
The free online software program, accessible only through IRS.gov FreeFile, is available for taxpayers to use in advance of the start of the filing season on Jan. 28.
Who can use Free File
Any individual or family whose adjusted gross income for 2018 was $66,000 or less can find at least one Free File software product they can use. Often, taxpayers are eligible for multiple products. The income limitation means that 100 million taxpayers – 70 percent – are eligible to use Free File.
Workers, families with children, first-time filers and seniors who meet the income criteria are all eligible for Free File. The software supports all the new tax law changes as well as long-time benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. While most products have a set of eligibility requirements, 10 Free File partners have a special offer for active duty military personnel by making their sole eligibility criteria an income of $66,000 or less.
IRS Free File is all that’s needed for residents of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming where there is no state income tax. Some Free File partners offer free federal and free state return preparation. And some states have their own Free File program.
This just in via email from IRS Newswire <email@example.com>:
Issue Number: IR-2019-01
IRS confirms tax filing season to begin January 28
WASHINGTON ― Despite the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service today confirmed that it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.
“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
Congress directed the payment of all tax refunds through a permanent, indefinite appropriation (31 U.S.C. 1324), and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations. Although in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.
“IRS employees have been hard at work over the past year to implement the biggest tax law changes the nation has seen in more than 30 years,” said Rettig.
As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns once the filing season begins. For taxpayers who usually file early in the year and have all of the needed documentation, there is no need to wait to file. They should file when they are ready to submit a complete and accurate tax return.
The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019 for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019 to file their returns.
The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.
For the week, the S&P 500 gained 1.86%, the Dow added 1.61%, and the NASDAQ increased 2.34%. MSCI EAFE stocks also increased, posting a 1.42% weekly gain.
While the results may not seem especially dramatic, the path to get there certainly was. On Thursday, January 3, domestic stocks plunged, as factory data and a tech warning spooked investors. Then, the next day, the S&P 500, Dow, and NASDAQ each gained at least 3.3%. Friday’s performance marked one of the largest rallies since the beginning of this bull market.
What drove the market rally?
Two key events contributed to the huge jumps on Friday: 1) the latest labor report and 2) comments from the Federal Reserve Chairman.
1. December’s labor report exceeded projections.
Many people expected that the economy would add around 176,000 jobs last month. Instead, the latest data revealed that the increase was actually 312,000 new jobs in December – drastically beating expectations. Not only did last month’s labor report show more jobs added than anticipated, but wage growth and labor market participation also increased.
Why does this data matter?
Investors have been very concerned that economic growth is slowing. This data helped quell worries that a recession is ahead.
2. The Fed shared new policy perspectives.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell told the American Economic Association that the Federal Reserve understands the market’s worries and hasn’t predetermined its future interest rate hikes.
Why does this update matter?
Some of the uneasiness the markets have shown recently are a result of concerns that the Fed is tightening monetary policy too quickly. Powell’s comments indicate the Fed is sensitive to economic conditions, an update that many investors wanted to hear.
Obligatory photo of shop kittie inspecting transformers while I try to get work done.
An informational alert prepared by Fifth Freedom
Information courtesy of the Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration has announced a 2.8% increase in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for 2019. This increase will benefit more than 67 million Americans. This cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is the largest in seven years.
The amount of the COLA is determined by inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The CPI-W is essentially a list of changes in the price of goods and services purchased by clerical workers, sales workers, craft workers, operative, service workers, or laborers. The CPI-W does not count purchases made by retirees or people not in the labor force.