U.S. Jobless-Benefit Rolls Increase to 4.81 Million
The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits rose for a fourth straight week, reaching a record, as companies accelerated firings.
The total number of recipients rose to 4.81 million in the week ended Jan. 31 from 4.8 million the prior week, the Labor Department said today in Washington. First-time unemployment applications fell by 8,000 to 623,000 last week, a smaller drop than economists expected.
Companies ranging from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to General Motors Corp. announced job cuts this week, reflecting a deepening recession that’s now in its second year. President Barack Obama aims to create as many as 4 million jobs with a $789 billion stimulus plan awaiting approval in Congress.
“The labor market still looks pretty bad,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York who forecast initial claims would fall to 620,000. “There’s still a lot of job destruction going on.”
Another government report showed sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly rose in January for the first time in seven months, reflecting higher gasoline prices and more spending on items such as clothing and food. The 1 percent increase, breaking the longest string of declines on record, followed a revised 3 percent drop the prior month, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Purchases excluding autos gained 0.9 percent.