Unemployment Tops 6 Million; Housing Starts DropDespite first-time jobless claims dropping, the continuing unemployment claims broke a record and topped 6 million in the week ending April 4, says the Labor Department. The recovery of the economy was also dealt a blow with a report on new housing starts, showing they dropped in March.
First-time jobless claims dropped to 610,000, a decline of 53,000 from the prior week. First-time claims measure the number of new people filing for unemployment benefits.
A record of more than 6 million people continued to file unemployment claims during the week ending April 4, which is up 172,000 from the previous week's total of 5.85 million. First-time jobless claims were predicted to total 658,000 in that week, according to economist forecasts.
The job market is considered a key economic indicator and is one of the most important foundations of the economy. Earlier in April the government's report showed 2 million jobs were lost through March, making the country's unemployment rate total 8.5 percent.
The number of new housing starts fell last month after an increase in February, according to Commerce Department reports. This downward decline in housing starts dims the hopes of a quick recovery from the 16-month-old recession.
The Commerce Department report shows housing starts fell 10.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 units. This is the second lowest on records dating back to 1959. Hardest hit was the West region which saw housing starts fall 26.3 percent to a record low rate of 73,000. Previously, analysts had predicted an overall annual rate of 540,000 units for last month.
The housing market is seen as the epicenter of the country's economic downturn, which is set next month to become the longest since the Great Depression. The continuing increase of foreclosures, collapsing house prices and rising unemployment figures has made consumers cut back on discretionary spending.
New housing permits, an indicator of future home construction, dipped 9 percent to a record low 513,000 units, from 564,000 units in February, the Commerce Department reports -- far beneath estimates from analysts of 550,000 permits.