CNN Financial News Producer
The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is at an all-time record high as layoffs spread throughout the economy. The Labor Department says the number of Americans continuing to claim unemployment insurance for the week ending Jan. 17 was a seasonally adjusted 4.78 million, the highest on records dating back to 1967.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits rose for the third consecutive week - by 3,000 to 588,000 - for the week ended Jan. 24.
And the parade of layoffs continues… Eastman Kodak says it will cut 2,000 to 3,000 more jobs in 2009, bringing to 3,500 to 4,500 the number of positions it will eliminate this year. That’s 14% to 18% of Kodak’s workforce.
Ford’s finance unit will eliminate 20 percent of its workforce, or about 1,200 jobs. Oshkosh, the Wisconsin-based builder of fire engines, dump trucks and military vehicles, announced 1,050 new job cuts in addition to the more than 1,300 announced last year.
Starbucks late Wednesday said it’s cutting 6,700 additional jobs and closing another 300 stores as a weak economy weighed on sales. And electronics parts maker Jabil Circuit plans to eliminate approximately 3,000 jobs.
Ford Motor says its ongoing losses soared in the fourth quarter, but the company maintains it still does not need any of the federal bailout money already received by rivals Chrysler and GM.
Ford reported a net loss of $5.9 billion, up from a loss of $2.8 billion in the same quarter a year ago. For the full year, Ford lost $14.6 billion, and the company has now lost nearly $30 billion over the past three years.
Orders to factories for big-ticket manufactured goods have fallen for the fifth straight month in December, closing out a dismal year in which demand dropped by the largest amount since the recession year of 2001. Durable goods orders dropped 2.6% in December. And for the year, the government says orders fell 5.7 percent, the second biggest drop on record, exceeded only by a 10.7 percent plunge in 2001.
Sales of newly constructed homes plunged in December to the lowest level on records going back to 1963. New home sales fell to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 331,000 in December. That's down nearly 15% from a revised annual rate of 388,000 in November. December’s sales pace was also nearly 45% below the same month one year ago.
Gas prices rose 1-tenth of a cent overnight at $1.843 a gallon. 4 states have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.512). 46 states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices below $2. The cheapest gas prices are in Wyoming ($1.517)
Finally, eating an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies in a single sitting will be a little bit easier this year. The Girl Scouts of the USA confirm they've reduced the number of cookies per box because of rising transportation and baking costs.
Michelle Tompkins, a national Girl Scout spokeswoman, said that "the cost of baking a cookie today is significantly higher than it was even a year ago, and our bakers cannot continue to absorb these rising costs." She also said transportation costs have increased 30% to 40% from a year ago.
That means there will be two to four fewer cookies in boxes of Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbread Cookies, DoSiDos, and Trefoils, Tompkins said.
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