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House extends jobless benefits

WASHINGTON — The House voted Friday to extend unemployment benefits to those who have exhausted their current benefits. The vote came hours after news that the nation's payrolls were continuing to shrink and after the House had approved a massive financial rescue plan for Wall Street.

The Labor Department announced Friday that payrolls fell by another 159,000 in September. The unemployment rate stayed at 6.1 percent. The reduction in payrolls was much sharper than the 100,000 cuts economists were forecasting. It marked the ninth straight month that the economy has lost jobs.

"People are hurting with no end in sight," said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

Despite the strong 368-28 vote in the House, the bill's chances of becoming law this year are slim. On Thursday, Senate opponents rejected an effort to bring the legislation to the floor, possibly dooming it for the year. The Senate is in recess for the elections and it is unclear if it will reconvene after the Nov. 4 vote.

The House bill would provide seven additional weeks of payments to those who have exhausted their benefits. Those in states where the unemployment rate is above 6 percent, which includes Kentucky, would be entitled to an additional 13 weeks above the 26 weeks of regular benefits.

Sponsors said the measure would result in distribution of about $6 billion in benefits.

Without congressional action, about 800,000 people would run out of benefits in October, with that number growing to 1.1 million by the end of the year, sponsors said.

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