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Jobless claims hit all-time high


The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits hit a record high last week and will likely continue to rise as more companies announced mass layoffs this week, the Associated Press reported.

According to a Labor Department report, the number of Americans continuing to claim unemployment benefits for the week ended Jan. 17 rose by 159,000 to a seasonally adjusted 4.78 million, the highest on records dating back to 1967. It does not include about 1.7 million people who are still receiving benefits under an extended unemployment compensation program.

The news comes amid reports of further layoffs. Starbucks Corp. said yesterday it would eliminate 6,700 jobs and close 300 stores, in addition to the 600 it already planned to shut down. Ford Motor Corp. said it would lay off 20 percent of its employees in its credit division after reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $5.9 billion, and Eastman Kodak Co. said it would cut 3,500 to 4,500 jobs after a $137 million quarterly loss.

The number of Americans filling for jobless benefits for the first time rose to a seasonally adjusted 588,000, which is close to a 26-year high of 589,000 reached in late December. The four-week average of initial claims rose to 542,500 from 518,250 the previous week.

The number of people applying for benefits has overwhelmed many states and caused the filing systems to crash in three states earlier this month. Michigan said it would hire 276 workers and open a fourth call center to handle the increased telephone traffic.

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