- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2009

Almost 5 million Americans — a record number — have been receiving jobless benefits, and new unemployment claims jumped to a surprising 627,000 people last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Economists had expected that new jobless claims would dip to 620,000 from the 623,000 of a week earlier. It was not to be.

The number of new claims and the 4.99 million people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits — up from 4.81 million registered in last week’s Labor Department report — indicate there has been no letup in the toll that the worst recession in 70 years has been taking on American workers.

And there were indications of worse to come, with the General Motors Corp. announcing Wednesday that it will dismiss another 47,000 workers as part of its restructuring plan and Chrysler LLC planning to lay off another 3,000.

It marked the fourth consecutive week in which the number of people who continue to receive unemployment payments has been at a record level, the highest since the recession year of 1982, during President Reagan’s first term.

The Federal Reserve predicted in a document released Wednesday that unemployment will climb to 8.8 percent this year from its current official level of 7.6 percent and that the economy will contract by 1.3 percent.

President Obama signed a $787 billion economic stimulus package Tuesday that he repeatedly has said is intended to save or create up to 3.5 million jobs within the next two years as money is spent on the country’s infrastructure and sent to the states to help them prevent job losses, among other things.

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