The number of U.S. workers who filed new claims for initial unemployment benefits declined slightly last week, though many economists expected a steeper drop.
A Labor Department report released Thursday showed that initial claims fell from 478,000 in the week of January 23 to 470,000. According to Reuters, economists anticipated a drop to 450,000 instead.
Continuing benefits claims also fell by 57,000 to 4.6 million. This figure doesn’t include the individuals who used up the standard 26 weeks of benefits and have since shifted to extended benefits provided by the federal government, which give aid for up to 73 more weeks.
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The unemployment rate for individuals eligible for jobless benefits fell to 3.5 percent as of Jan. 16 by .1 percent from the week before.
As of January 9, the number of individuals receiving extended benefits fell by 305,000 to more than 5.6 million.
In his State of the Union speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama said that jobs “must be our number one focus in 2010.”
He proposed a new jobs bill that would give $30 billion in loans and tax breaks to small businesses. In addition, he called for more infrastructure projects on transportation and clean energy facilities, and encouraged businesses to keep their operations within the U.S., taking away their tax breaks if necessary.
“But the truth is, these steps still won’t make up for the 7 million jobs we’ve lost over the last two years,” President Obama said. “The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth and finally address the problems that America’s families have confronted for years.”