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Bush signs bill to extend jobless benefits

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  • NEW: Bush signs bill on Friday morning, spokeswoman says
  • Senate bill extends benefits by at least seven weeks in every state
  • Unemployment benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states
  • Labor Department says unemployment insurance filings reach 16-year high
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday morning signed a measure to extend unemployment benefits by at least seven weeks in every state, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that extends unemployment benefits.

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that extends unemployment benefits.

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the bill, which also calls for benefits to be extended by 13 weeks in states with an unemployment rate of at least 6 percent.

The bill was approved by the House in October.

Perino said in a statement that Bush will sign the legislation "because of the tight job market."

In September, Bush threatened to veto a broader stimulus bill that included the extension of jobless benefits.

In most states, unemployment benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks.

The Senate vote came on the same day the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the number of people filing for unemployment insurance had reached a 16-year high.

Initial filings for state jobless benefits increased by 27,000 to 542,000 for the week ended November 15. This marks the third time since 1992 that initial claims have exceeded 500,000.

Claims reached the highest total since the week ending July 25, 1992, when 564,000 initial claims were filed.

Bob Brusca, an economist at FAO Economics, said the week's sharp uptick in claims and the fact that claims have held above 500,000 indicate that the figures are in worse shape than those of the most recent recessions of 1991 and 2001.

"The level itself is very disturbing," he said. "I would guess that the job market will get worse."

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected 503,000 claims. Last year, the figure stood at 333,000.

The number of people continuing to collect benefits for one week or more neared a 26-year high. The number surged by 109,000 to 4,012,000 for the week ended November 8, the most recent data available. The last time the figure was this high was for the week of December 12, 1982, when it reached 4,381,000.

The four-week moving average of unemployment claims, used to smooth fluctuations in the data, increased by 15,750 to 506,500 from 490,750 the week before. During the past two recessions, the four-week moving average has held above 400,000. This is the 18th week the four-week moving average has exceeded that benchmark.

U.S. job losses have been mounting for months. This month, the Department of Labor reported that the economy lost 240,000 jobs in October, bringing the total number of jobs shed in 2008 to nearly 1.2 million. The unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent, a 14-year high, last month.

Companies reporting layoffs in the past week include Citigroup, which slashed 20 percent of its work force, or 50,000 jobs, the biggest cut by a corporation in 15 years. Financial services firm Fidelity Investments announced that it will cut 1,700 jobs, and Sun Microsystems reported that it would lay off 6,000 people, or 18 percent of its work force.

CNNMoney.com's Lara Moscrip contributed to this report

All About U.S. SenateGeorge W. BushU.S. Department of Labor

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