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US Jobless Total Rises by 651,000 in February

The deep downturn in the US economy gathered strength in February as another 651,000 workers lost their jobs.

It was the third straight month in which the jobless total rose by more than 600,000. Since the recession began in December 2007 over four million Americans have lost their jobs.

The unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in February, the highest rate in over 25 years. Job losses in February were close to expectations, while the unemployment rate was above forecasts of 8 percent.

New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey called attention to the revised 688,000 job lost in December 2008. "That [revised] December decline is now the worst we've seen since October 1949," he said.

Hinchey is a member of the Joint Economic Committee. During a discussion of the grim jobs data, members divided along party lines on whether the economic stimulus plan of President Obama will turn the economy around. Elijah Cummings, a democrat from Baltimore, Maryland, is optimistic.

"This [economic] situation changes from day-to-day, hour-to-hour, it is indeed a very difficult moving target," said Cummings. "But we will hit the target."

Kevin Brady, a Republican congressman from east Texas, is convinced that more government spending is not the answer. "Unfortunately, the administration's solution to the problem posed by an excessive debt burden is to propose an avalanche of more deficit spending and higher federal debt," he said.

Analysts expect the jobless rate will continue to rise, perhaps reaching 10 percent of the labor force. The current recession is already among the deepest of the post-World War II period.

The stock market, a barometer of business confidence, has plummeted 20 percent in the six weeks since President Obama took office. It is down 53 percent from its October 2007 record high, a move that has erased several trillion dollars from America's household wealth.