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White House Pushes for Jobless Aid Extension; Jobless Claims Plunge

Matthew Giarmo of Alexandria, Virginia, who lost his contract job with the Department of Health and Human Services in 2012, holds up a sign seeking a job with a lower salary than he would normally ask on a street corner October 8, 2013 in Washington, DC.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is pushing to extend jobless benefits to long-term unemployed Americans.

The argument is that if benefits don’t get renewed by the end of the month, more than a million people will lose the assistance — which will slow economic growth.

The government released a report Thursday. It says Congress has renewed benefits when unemployment was lower than the current 7.3 percent. New jobless numbers are due out Friday.

Democrats want to keep a program giving federal jobless benefits to people after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out. The Congressional Budget Office says that would cost an estimated $25 billion — but estimates say it would also stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled 23,000 last week to 298,000, nearly a six-year low that shows companies are laying off fewer workers.

The Labor Department says the less volatile four-week moving average declined 10,750 to 322,250.

Last week’s jobless claims nearly matched a September figure, which was distorted by late reporting from California. When excluding the September report, last week’s figures were the lowest since May 2007.

Applications have fallen seven of the past eight weeks, a hopeful sign for job growth at the end of the year. The decline has corresponded with stronger hiring in recent months.

Last week included the Thanksgiving holiday, which can present challenges for seasonal adjustments. But government officials say there were no special factors affecting the report.

Also, planned job cuts in November were little changed from October.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas says its monthly survey of employers found they planned to cut 45,314 workers from their payrolls in November, just 0.9 percent less than a month earlier.

However, the November cuts were down 21 percent from the same month a year ago, for a second straight month of year-over-year declines.

For the year to date, employers say there are 2.5 percent fewer job cuts than during the first 11 months of 2012.

The financial sector had the most job cuts through November, more than 59,000. Challenger says that’s largely because the flood of foreclosures and refinancing after the recession has been waning, and banks are shedding the extra workers who were added to handle them.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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