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US Unemployment Hits 25-Year High

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March, the highest level in 25 years. The Labor Department's monthly jobless report was released Friday.

The unemployment rate rose .4 percent over February, leaving more than 13 million Americans without work.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Keith Hall presented the report to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. He was asked if there was any good news at all in the report:

"To be honest, no. In fact, the decline has been remarkably consistent. This month we lost 663,000 jobs. Over the past five months we have averaged losing 667,000 jobs (per month)."

Speaking in Germany, President Barack Obama said the unemployment figures show that the global economic slump is hitting the United States hard. He called for nations to work together to improve the world economy.

The Labor Department report said the March job losses affected companies across the economy and the nation. Manufacturing and construction were particularly hard hit. The report showed that some 5.1 million jobs have disappeared since the recession began in December 2007.

The report also shows that it has become increasingly difficult to find new jobs, a conclusion that worries Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat and chairwoman of the committee. "I am particularly concerned by the long duration of unemployment faced by a great number of workers, and the disruptive impact that this long-term unemployment has had, and will have on these workers and their families. Almost one in four unemployed workers is experiencing an unemployment spell of six months or longer, the highest level in over 25 years," he said.

Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, took the opportunity to criticize the Obama administration's economic plans as the wrong policies to get people back to work. "The economy needs help. But rather than stimulating the economy by providing an improved incentives to work and invest, we have been devoting trillions of dollars in taxpayer money to expanding and creating permanent long-term government spending programs and income-redistribution mechanisms," he said.

The Obama administration is implementing a $787 billion package of tax cuts and spending to stimulate the economy.

Late Thursday, the Democratic-led House and Senate voted in support of the administration's budget framework, which calls for higher spending on domestic programs like education and health care reform. Republicans opposed the increased spending, arguing it will expand the federal deficit.