- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009


The number of people who filed for jobless claims for the first time last week jumped to 654,000 and those who receive continuing benefits also increased to 5.3 million, a new record, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The rise in the number of people who signed up for unemployment insurance for the week ended Saturday marked an increase from the 639,000 first-time filers the previous week, the agency said.

The 654,000 figure was above expectations by analysts and marked the sixth consecutive week in which the number of first-time filers exceeded 600,000, a sure sign that the 15-month-long recession is not ending anytime soon. The official unemployment rate is 8.1 percent.

In addition, the number of people who continue to receive benefits increased by 193,000 last week to 5.317 million, the most on Labor Department records that stretch back to 1967.

Economists polled by Bloomberg.com expected that the number of first-time filers would increase from 639,000 to 644,000.

The four-week average of new applications, which gives a clearer picture of the number of jobless, went up from 641,750 to 643,250, the highest since 1982, a recession year and the first term of President Ronald Reagan. This recession has been the worst since the early 1980s.

Some economists have predicted that the official unemployment rate will reach the low double digits before the recession over, with at least 9 percent of the labor force out of work by the end of this year.

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