Initial jobless benefit claims rise 30,000 to 586,000 in latest week

Rex Nutting
December 24, 2008

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The nation’s labor market continued to worsen in recent weeks, with the unemployment lines stretching to the longest in 26 years, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

First-time applications for state unemployment benefits jumped by 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 586,000 in the week ended Dec. 20, the government said, based on reports of actual filings at state offices around the nation. That’s the highest since November 1982. Read the full report.

efoodsThe four-week average of new claims — which smooth out distortions caused by bad weather, strikes or the timing of holidays — rose by 13,750 to 558,000, the highest since December 1982.

Meanwhile, the number of people collecting benefits fell by 17,000 to 4.37 million in the week ended Dec. 13. The four-week average of continuing claims rose by 93,000 to 4.32 million, the most since December 1982.

The jobless claims report shows businesses are laying off workers at a rapid pace, and finding a replacement job is ever harder for those who have lost their job.

“The rate of job losses has sped up to a pace consistent with forecasts for a plunge in gross domestic product during the current quarter,” wrote Tony Crescenzi, chief bond strategist for Miller Tabak & Co., who noted that forecasters are predicting an annualized decline of 5% or more this quarter.

“This is a pretty clean number,” a Labor Department spokesman said. There were no unusual events that would skew the numbers one way or the other, he said. The snow storm in the Northeast had little impact on new claims.

Several states reported increases in manufacturing layoffs, notably in the automotive industry, the government spokesman said. Layoffs were hitting almost every sector of manufacturing, he said. “It’s crazy.”


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