WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of new unemployment claims jumped more than expected last week, as companies continue to cut jobs at a furious pace and more Americans turn to an extended benefits program.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless benefit claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 589,000 in the week ending Jan. 17, from an upwardly revised figure of 527,000 the previous week. The latest tally was well above Wall Street economists' expectations of 540,000 new claims.
The total matches a 26-year high reached four weeks ago. The last time claims were higher was in November 1982, when the economy was emerging from a steep recession, though the work force has grown by about half since then.
The increase is partly due to a backlog of claims that piled up in recent weeks in several states that experienced computer crashes due to a crush of applications, a Labor Department analyst said. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, was 519,250, the same as the previous week.