New claims for U.S. unemployment benefits were virtually unchanged in the week ending June 25, as business and government layoffs continue to challenge efforts to slash the jobless rate.
The Labor Department said 428,000 people filed new claims for unemployment insurance, only a slight dip from the 429,000 a week earlier.
It was the 12th week in a row above the 400,000 mark, after claims dropped below that line from February to April in a trend that had encouraged the belief that the economy was strongly recovering.
The nationwide unemployment rate ticked up slightly in May to 9.1%, as the economy slowed sharply in the first and second quarters.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama appealed to congressional Republicans to agree to raise the country's debt ceiling to remove a specter of uncertainty, tying the issue directly to the need to generate work.
"By Aug. 2nd, we run out of tools to make sure that all our bills are paid. So that is a hard deadline," Obama said. "And I want everybody to understand that this is a jobs issue."
"If the United States government, for the first time, cannot pay its bills, if it defaults, then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable," Obama added.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011