Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bush signs bill extending unemployment benefits into law

U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday signed into law a bill that will keep unemployment cheques flowing to jobless Americans through the holiday season.

The bill extending unemployment benefits was approved by the U.S. Congress just as new claims hit a 16-year high, and the number of people looking for work has surpassed 10 million.

The Labour Department said this week that first-time unemployment benefit claims surged to a seasonally adjusted 542,000 last week from 515,000 the previous week.

The claims figure was much worse than the 505,000 that economists had been expecting.

Bush signed the bill in Washington just before leaving for Lima, Peru, to attend the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The summit could be Bush's last international trip as U.S. president. He will be trying to win more converts to an international action plan to tackle the global economic crisis.

The package of measures was adopted last weekend at the G20 summit, held in Washington and attended by some of the world's richest countries and emerging powers such as Brazil, India and China.

With files from the Associated Press