WASHINGTON — New claims for jobless benefits surged last week and came in worse than expectations that were already gloomy — and economists say the figures would get even worse without an auto industry bailout.
Initial applications for unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was nearly 50,000 more than expected and up from a revised 515,000 the week before.
The last time that figure was so high in a single week was in 1982, but the labor force has grown by about half since then.
Adding more damage to the already ravaged labor market, Bank of America said it expected to cut as many as 35,000 jobs over the next three years, including some from investment bank Merrill Lynch, which it agreed to buy in September.
Separately, the U.S. trade deficit rose unexpectedly in October, partly because of dampened demand for American exports. The gap was $57.2 billion in October, up from $56.6 billion in September. Analysts had been expecting a decline because of falling oil prices.
The four-week average of new jobless claims, which smooths out fluctuations, is now a seasonally adjusted 540,500. That's the highest since December 1982, when the economy was emerging from a deep recession.