The number of newly laid off Americans signing up for jobless benefits last week unexpectedly climbed to its highest point in more than 6 years as the faltering US economy forced companies to cut back. The Labor Department reported today that new applications filed for unemployment rose by 7,000 to 455,000, their highest level since late March 2002.
The latest snapshot of layoff filings was worse than expected by analysts, who had forecast new claims to drop to around 430,000. The data disappointed Wall Street and the White House, and the Dow Jones industrials fell more than 100 points in morning trading. "The job market isn't strong right now," said a White House spokesman, citing the stimulus program as a helpful cushion.