Thursday, February 12, 2009
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WASHINGTON — Nearly 5 million Americans continued to draw jobless benefits late last month, and new requests again exceeded 600,000 as companies lay off scores of workers amid a deepening recession.
In slightly better economic news, retail sales rose unexpectedly in January, reversing six months of decline and following a dismal holiday season. But analysts said the jump was unlikely to last, partly because of the weak job market.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of initial jobless benefit claims dropped to a seasonally-adjusted 623,000, from an upwardly revised figure of 631,000 the previous week. The latest tally still was above analysts' expectations of 610,000 claims.
And in a sign that laid-off workers are having difficulty finding new work, the number of people claiming benefits for more than one week rose to 4.81 million from 4.78 million, the highest total since records began in 1967. The continuing claims data lag new claims by a week.
An additional 1.5 million people are receiving benefits under an extended unemployment compensation program approved by Congress last year, bringing the total number of recipients to 6.3 million.