February 19th, 2009
03:23 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Nearly 5 million collecting unemployment

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/18/art.chrysler.gi.jpg]

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The total number of Americans drawing unemployment benefits has hit a new record of just under 5 million. This is the highest number since the government started keeping records back in 1967.

New claims for benefits, meanwhile, remained unchanged at 627,000 in the week ended Feb. 14 - holding at a 26-year high. But the number of people receiving unemployment checks for one week or more rose to a record 4,987,000 in the week ended Feb. 7, the most recent data available.

The government's measurement of wholesale inflation rose for the first time in six months in January, due largely to rising energy prices.

The Producer Price Index, which tracks the changes in selling prices for domestic producers, rose 0.8% last month compared with a decline of 1.9% in December - which had marked the fifth straight month of declines. And the core PPI, which excludes the volatile energy and food costs, rose 0.4% in January.

Bond villains and international assassins beware! In a seismic shift in Switzerland's tradition of banking secrecy, UBS has admitted helping U.S. taxpayers hide money from the IRS, and has agreed to pay $780 million in fines and restitution and to turn over the names of about 250 account holders. Switzerland's largest bank has also agreed to end its business practice of providing banking services to U.S. customers with undeclared accounts.

Stocks opened slightly higher today as investors reacted to government reports on wholesale inflation and the record number of people filing for unemployment benefits. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed virtually unchanged Wednesday.

The $75 billion foreclosure prevention program announced Wednesday by President Obama will go a long way to helping millions of distressed borrowers and to stopping the housing market's downward spiral, experts say. But it won’t help everyone.

CNNMoney.com has an overview of the multi-pronged plan, which calls for modifying loans for borrowers both at risk or already in default and for allowing those with little or no home equity to refinance into more affordable loans through interest rate reductions.

General Motors and Chrysler asked the government Tuesday for $21.6 billion in additional loans, but the final cost of a bailout of the auto industry could be significantly higher - as much as $130 billion in fact. Here's a breakdown of the rest of the money that might be needed.

Gas prices dropped 8-tenths of a cent overnight to $1.949 a gallon ($1.95 for graphics). 15 states have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. 35 states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices below $2. The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.539). The cheapest gas prices are in Wyoming ($1.723)

Finally, Americans drove fewer miles in December for the 14th month in a row, but the decline was not as steep as in previous months thanks to cheaper gasoline prices that encouraged additional travel in some states, the U.S. Transportation Department says.

U.S. highway travel was down 1.6% in December compared to a year ago, falling 3.8 billion miles to 237 billion miles. That was much smaller than November’s 5.4% drop.

Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Wall St.
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    What is the percentage of unemployed now? Especially as compared to the 1930s.... As far as driving being up in December, maybe lower gas prices had an effect but I think a lot of people traveled for Christmas to see their families. The memories of Christmas with family is priceless.

    February 19, 2009 at 9:47 pm |
  2. Mike, Zephyrhills, FL

    Taking Advantage of the Poor

    Rent to Own, Buy Here Pay Here , these places charge 2-10 times more than what the goods are worth. We dont encourage save and then buy , we have to take and take and create this mess we are in.

    Have a checking account we can sell you a computer for $30 a week or more for a yr. Thats $1400 for a computer that costs $400 at Wal-mart.

    Cash Advances, 300% Loan sharks, and all the Pawn shops, encouraging theft and robberies.

    Gambling has become the main source of States Income, Retirees now spend a major part of their SS on Lotto games. All these Casinos and we even bus em all over the country to make it even more enticing.

    Try and turn you loose change in these days , banks dont want it, they want you to use one of those Change Machines and pay a fee on loose change, so the world of taking advantage of poor people continues. Sad!!

    February 19, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  3. Mike, Zephyrhills, FL


    Since 1983, Trickle Down Economics has been our policy. Allowing companies to expand globally and creating these super cheap goods, for Wal-mart, Dollar Tree, Big Lots, etc... thus creating materialism and the greater demand for cheap goods.

    These companies have since started policies of only offering part time employment , usually 20 hrs and no benefits and then they spend their money at the store they work at. Old Company Store like in the Coal Mines yrs ago.

    Now they have hired more people 65 and older to help decrease insurance costs and eliminate younger full time employees.

    So real Unemployment may be 8%, those who are underemployed, 65 and older , part time and self employed who cant qualify for benefits, your looking at about 25% or roughly 80 Million people suffering and barely making it in our country. No savings for these people, they spend 100% of everything they can muster up.

    Here in FL i have seen people now buying only eggs, cans of cheap potted meat, mac & cheese , and nothing healthy.

    We are in a Depression and helping the top will not help.

    Make America, make it here , buy it here!!

    February 19, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  4. xtina, chicago IL

    sandra's point is well said. Shouldn't we be cutting welfare for able-bodied people before we hit successful companies with taxes. After all, the successful companies will be the ones providing the quality jobs.

    February 19, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  5. Frank.....Vermont

    I remember the days when cars got 40 to 60 miles to a gallon. If the government in the USA can't force them to get out of bed with the oil Company's. We should let the car industry fall on its FACE. Wake up AMERICA

    February 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Sandra

    Californias unemployment will be going up. With the huge tax increases just passed, we will have no choice but to lay off some employees. We cannot abosorb any more costs. everything is going up, we can't raise our prices in this economy, we are having to lower them, just to keep working. The auto/ motorhome dealers in California may as well leave. We are facing .12 per gallon gas hike, 1% sales tax hike (will be 9% sales tax), Double our DMV registrations. Raise the state income tax....only to mention a few.

    Thanks Democrats!! Wish they could learn to cut the entitlement programs, but they can't. 5 billion dollars a year for illegal imigrants!! Free school lunches for 2 million dollars a year. The list of waste goes on and on.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  7. meenas17

    A nice catalogue of activities. has been compiled. Loss leads to slowdown ,which takes to unemployment, in turn presses hard on spending ,as there is no income. Banks give out loan for no interest, but there are no takers.So we are well back to square one. It is a merry go round

    February 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  8. Neo

    ^ I concur w/ the above comment ^. Said the same thing over breakfast .... As for unemployment: businesses should be at least 80% – 85% sustainable before they go hiring people. AC, next time you speak to Obama you should ask him his views on business sustainability and why the gov't and banks lend to businesses without any long term outlook for their finances. Stimulus helps but proper business planning will always be key. As for unemployment, I hope some of the stimulus money goes to programs for the unemployed, perhaps some of them can retrain for some parellel career or go further along in their education whilst waiting for the next job.

    February 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  9. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    It would appear that the "face of a great nation" is changing--trust in God---the rest pay cash.

    February 19, 2009 at 11:32 am |