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Americans Receiving Jobless Benefits Hits Record

Americans Receiving Jobless Benefits Hits Record

Job seekers queue up to attend a job fair in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER / Associated Press

January 29, 2009

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits has reached an all-time record, the government said Thursday, and more layoffs are spreading throughout the economy.

The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans continuing to claim unemployment insurance for the week ending Jan. 17 was a seasonally adjusted 4.78 million, the highest on records dating back to 1967. That’s an increase of 159,000 from the previous week and worse than economists’ expectations of 4.65 million.

As a proportion of the work force, the tally of unemployment benefit recipients is the highest since August 1983, a department analyst said.

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The total released by the department doesn’t include about 1.7 million people receiving benefits under an extended unemployment compensation program authorized by Congress last summer. That means the total number of recipients is actually closer to 6.5 million people.

Businesses continued to hemorrhage jobs Thursday. Ford Motor Co. reported a fourth-quarter loss of $5.9 billion and said its credit arm would cut 20 percent of its work force, or 1,200 jobs. Eastman Kodak Co. said it’s cutting 3,500 to 4,500 jobs, or 14 to 18 percent of its work force, as it posted a $137 million quarterly loss on plunging sales of photography products. Black & Decker Corp. said its fourth-quarter profit tumbled 77 percent and the power tools manufacturer announced about 1,200 job cuts.

More signs of the deepening recession came in separate government reports on home sales and durable goods.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that new home sales fell 14.7 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 331,000, the lowest pace on records dating back to 1963. For 2008, builders sold 482,000 homes, the weakest results since 1982.


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