The deteriorating job market

THE DETERIORATING JOB MARKET…. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the job market appears to be in pretty horrendous shape.

New claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week to a 16-year high, the Labor Department said Thursday, providing more evidence of a rapidly weakening job market expected to get even worse next year.

The government said new applications for jobless benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 542,000 from a downwardly revised figure of 515,000 in the previous week. That’s much higher than Wall Street economists’ expectations of 505,000, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

That is also the highest level of claims since July 1992, the department said, when the U.S. economy was coming out of a recession.

The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, was even worse: it rose to 506,500, the highest in more than 25 years.

In addition, the number of people continuing to claim unemployment insurance rose sharply for the third straight week to more than 4 million, the highest since December 1982, when the economy was in a painful recession.

How bad is it? The Bush White House is suddenly willing to sign legislation to extend unemployment benefits. A bill to provide unemployment checks for up to 13 additional weeks for those who’ve exhausted their unemployment insurance has already passed the House, and the Senate is poised to follow suit as early as tonight.