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US jobless rate rises to highest in 26 years

EMPLOYERS in the United States cut 467,000 jobs in June, driving the unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent.

The Labor Department report, released yesterday, showed that even as the recession shows signs of easing, companies were wanting to keep a lid on costs and be wary of hiring until they feel certain the economy is on solid ground.

June's payroll reductions were deeper than the 363,000 economists expected.

However, the rise in the unemployment rate from 9.4 percent in May wasn't as sharp as the expected 9.6 percent. Still, many economists predict the jobless rate will hit 10 percent this year, and keep rising into next year before falling back.

All told, 14.7 million Americans were unemployed in June.

If laid-off workers who have given up looking for jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 16.5 percent last month, the highest since 1994.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the US economy has lost a net total of 6.5 million jobs.

As the downturn bites into profits, companies have turned to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures to survive. Those include holding down workers' hours and freezing or cutting pay.

The average working week in June fell to 33 hours, the lowest since 1964.

Layoffs in May turned out to be smaller, 322,000, than the 345,000 first reported. But job cuts in April were a bit deeper - 519,000 as against 504,000, according to government data.

Even with the higher pace of job cuts in June, the report indicates that the worst of the layoffs have passed. The deepest job cuts came in January, when 741,000 jobs vanished, the most in any month since 1949.

Job losses last month were widespread.

Professional and business services cut 118,000 jobs, more than double the 48,000 cut in May. Manufacturers cut 136,000, down from 156,000. Construction companies got rid of 79,000 jobs, up from 48,000 the previous month. Retailers eliminated 21,000, up from 17,600. Financial activities cut 27,000, following 30,000 in May. The government cut 52,000 jobs, up from 10,000 the previous month. Leisure and hospitality cut 18,000 jobs, erasing a gain of the same size in May.

In a separate report, the department said the number of newly laid-off workers filing applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to 614,000, in line with economists' predictions.


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