- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

The White House Thursday said that President Bush would quickly sign a bill extending unemployment insurance in light of news that weekly jobless claims rose to a 16-year high.

“Because of the tight job market, the President believes it would be appropriate to further extend unemployment benefits, and he would sign the legislation now pending in Congress,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino, in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

U.S. markets fell again Thursday, after the Labor Department reported that claims for unemployment insurance rose to 542,000 in the week ending Nov. 16, up from 515,000 the previous week and higher than predicted.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 444 points in afternoon trading, after spending much of the day fluctuating wildly. Asian and European markets were both also down earlier in the day.

“This report paints a pretty bleak job picture for mid-November and reinforces the comments from the Fed yesterday almost guaranteeing a sizable Fed rate cut at the next Fed meeting on Dec. 16,” Cary Leahey, economist at Decision Economics in New York, told Reuters.

“It means we’re probably facing another payroll employment report showing November job losses in the vicinity of 200,000.”

Congress is currently considering a bill that would extend unemployment benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks by as much as 13 weeks.

Over 1.2 million jobs have already been cut this year.

“The recent financial and credit crisis has slowed the economy, and it’s having an impact on job creation. The President is always concerned when anybody loses their job and wants to ensure that anybody who wants to work can find employment,” Mrs. Perino said.

The House has already passed a bill extending unemployment benefits by at least 7 weeks, and the Senate is set to take it up this week.

The bill, costing about $6 billion, would give a 13-week extension to those in states where unemployment is above six percent.

Unemployment benefits generally amount to checks of about $300 a week.

Mr. Bush already approved a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits in August. If the current bill passes, those receiving the $1,200 per month in high-unemployment states will be on track to get the free money for a full year.

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