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.
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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.