- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 21, 2009

California, Delaware, South Carolina and Florida registered record rates of unemployment in October as weakness in the labor market stretches from coast to coast and limits the economic recovery.

Joblessness rose in 29 U.S. states last month compared with 22 in September, the Labor Department said Friday in Washington. Michigan had the highest jobless rate at 15.1 percent, followed by Nevada at 13 percent and Rhode Island at 12.9 percent.

The national rate last month reached a 26-year high of 10.2 percent, weighing on consumer spending that accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Tuesday that joblessness “likely will decline only slowly,” a reason policymakers will keep interest rates near zero to ensure growth is sustained.

“We’ve had a surprisingly sharp jump in the jobless rate,” said Richard DeKaser, president of Woodley Park Research in Washington. “Businesses have truly been doing an extraordinary job of wringing out productivity from the labor force.”

Stocks fell for a third day, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declining 0.3 percent to 1,091.38 at 4:03 p.m. in New York. Dell Inc., the third-largest maker of personal computers, dropped 10 percent after reporting a 54 percent drop in profit.

The unemployment rate fell in 13 states, including Massachusetts, where it declined to 8.9 percent from 9.3 percent; New Hampshire, with a drop to 6.8 percent from 7.2 percent; and West Virginia, which fell to 8.5 percent from 8.9 percent.

The number of states with at least 10 percent unemployment held at 14 last month, the Labor Department’s report showed. The states reporting a record jobless rate were California at 12.5 percent, South Carolina at 12.1 percent, Florida at 11.2 percent and Delaware at 8.7 percent. The District of Columbia also set a high with an 11.9 percent rate.

President Obama on Nov. 6 signed into law a plan to extend jobless benefits, expand a tax credit for first-time homebuyers and provide tax refunds to money-losing companies. The measure gives jobless people as many as 20 additional weeks of unemployment assistance.

Mr. Obama also announced plans to convene a jobs summit at the White House next month.

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