Continued from page 1

A total of nearly 4.5 million people continued claiming unemployment aid, the department said. That was a drop of 223,000 from the previous week.

But that doesn’t include about 3.9 million people who received extended unemployment benefits the week of July 3, the latest data available. That figure fell by about 375,000 from the previous week because Senate Republicans had blocked an extension of long-term benefits for nearly two months.

The Senate voted Wednesday to continue the benefits through November, and the House is expected to approve a similar measure Thursday. Passage would clear the bill for President Obama’s signature.

About 2.5 million people lost benefits because of the political impasse but now will receive back payments because Congress restored the benefits retroactively.

The economy began recovering last summer, but recently the rebound has shown signs of faltering.

The housing market is slumping, consumers are cautious about spending, and the impact of last year’s $787 billion stimulus package is fading.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday the unemployment rate gradually would decline this year but at a “somewhat slower” pace than the Fed projected in the spring.

The central bank forecasts the jobless rate will be between 9.2 percent and 9.5 percent in the final quarter of 2010.

Mr. Bernanke said persistent unemployment is “an important drag on household spending” as it reduces incomes and causes “uncertainty about job prospects.”

The unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent in June from 9.7 percent the previous month.

AP business writer Tali Arbel contributed in New York to this report.