WASHINGTON — The number of newly laid-off individuals seeking unemployment benefits has jumped to a level not seen since just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as companies cut more jobs in the face of a slowing economy.
The Labor Department on Thursday reported that jobless claims last week increased by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 516,000. That nearly matched the 517,000 claims reported seven years ago, and is only the second time since 1992 that claims have topped 500,000.
The total also was much higher than analysts had expected.
The increase puts jobless claims at levels similar to the recession of the early 1990s. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, increased to 491,000, the highest in more than 17 years.
Jobless claims above 400,000 are considered a sign of recession. A year ago, claims stood at 338,000.