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March 5, 2010    

US unemployment rate holds steady at 9.7%

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by Kay Murchie
”US

The Labor Department has today revealed the US unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7% in February and lower than the 10% rate reported in December.

According to the Labor Department, employers cut 36,000 jobs last month - fewer than the 50,000 analysts had been expecting and compares to a revised 26,000 job cuts in January.

In the meantime, since the onset of the recession in December 2007, employment has fallen by 8.4 million. There are currently almost 15 million unemployed people in the US.

The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, is forecasting an unemployment rate of between 9.5% and 9.7% in 2010, easing to 8.2% to 8.5% in 2011.

In related news, last week the Commerce Department revealed the world’s no.1 economy grew at a faster rate in the fourth quarter than previous estimates showed.

According to official figures, the US economy grew by an annual 5.9% between the October and December period, rather than the 5.7% previously estimated.

For the whole of 2009, GDP declined at an unrevised 2.4% - this represented the largest full-year contraction since the 10.9% fall after the Second World War.

Earlier this week, the Fed’s influential Beige Book said the US economy had continued to grow at a “modest” pace this year.

Meanwhile, there has been some positive economic data coming out of the US this week, the Commerce Department said US factory orders grew 1.7% in January and followed a 1.5% rise in December.

Furthermore, the Commerce Department also announced consumer spending rose faster than expected in January by 0.5% - the fourth consecutive monthly rise.

The rise in consumer spending, which makes up for more than two-thirds of overall economic activity in the US, was better than expectations of 0.4%.

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