- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009


The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits for the first time rose for the third consecutive week to 588,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday, at a time when companies from all sectors of the economy announced the dismissals of tens of thousands of more workers.

In addition, the number of people receiving continuing benefits — 4.77 million — marked the highest since the department began keeping records in 1967, a Labor Department spokesman said.

The latest official figures were from the week ended Saturday in which the number of people who signed up for unemployment checks rose by 3,000 from a downwardly revised number of 585,000 first-time claims the week before.

At the same time, the number of jobless who continued to receive unemployment insurance for the week ended Jan. 17 was a seasonably adjusted rate of 4.77 million, a jump of 159,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 4.61 million, the Labor Department said.

The number — the total was 4,776,000 — marked the highest on records dating to 1967, when the Labor Department first began keeping tabs, a department spokesman told The Washington Times.

“There’s nothing on record beyond that,” he said.

The previous record for any one week was in August 1983 when the number of people who continued to receive unemployment checks was 4,713,000, the spokesman said. The nation was emerging from a recession at that time, the first term of President Ronald Reagan.

The increasing number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits hardly came as a surprise because of continuing indications that the recession, which officially began in December 2007, is getting worse.

Major companies announced earlier this week that more layoffs are in store for perhaps more than 100,000 people, among them 20,000 workers from Caterpillar Inc., builder of giant earth-moving and mining machinery. Starbucks said Wednesday it will cut 6,700 jobs and close 300 stores in addition to the 600 that it already planned to shut down.

See related story: Starbucks plans to cut 7,000 jobs

The AOL division of Time Warner Inc. said it will eliminate 700 jobs, about 10 percent of its workforce, and IBM Corp. said it dismissed thousands of workers in three different divisions but did not provide numbers.

The government has said that 2.6 million people are out of work in an official unemployment rate of 7.2 percent, but that number likely is to increase. Some economists have warned that the rate could climb to 9 percent or 10 percent before the economy begins to turn around. At the worst of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the unemployment rate reached 25 percent.

President Obama has said that his $819 billion economic stimulus package, which the House passed Wednesday night, was expected to create between 3 million and 4 million jobs

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