WEAK DATA: More people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the first rise in three weeks and a sign that hiring is slow. The trade deficit widened by nearly 9 percent, as exports slowed, and wholesale prices increased slightly.

CLAIMS STUCK: The reports illustrate a weak economy that is slowly recuperating more than a year after the recession officially ended. Applications for unemployment aid have been stuck near 450,000 all year.

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT: Economists say companies will be reluctant to hire until there is more evidence the economy is picking up. That may not come until the middle of next year.