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A Week's Worth

By Vic RobertsWork & Money deputy editor / February 23, 2004



• Unemployment underrated? The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply for the week ending Feb. 14, the US Labor Department reported. New applications fell by a seasonally adjusted 24,000 to 344,000, the largest drop since the beginning of November. That offered hope that companies may feel better about the economy and are less inclined to lay off workers. Even so, the unemployment rate could suddenly jump from its current 5.6 percent to 7.9 percent if 15 percent of the 23.6 million "inactive" Americans not included in US unemployment figures decide to look for work, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, an international outplacement firm. With 112,000 new jobs created last month, more inactive workers could decide to reenter the job market, suggests company CEO, John Challenger.

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• Lots of links: Building on the buzz that it may go public with an IPO later this year (see story page 16), Google announced last week that it has more than 6 billion items indexed in its search engine, including Web pages, images, and other files. The search engine holds 56.1 percent of the worldwide search engine market, according to OneStat.com.

• Driving large: Despite increasing sales of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, 8-cylinder engines were installed in 29.1 percent of US passenger vehicles built in North America last year. It's the highest rate since 1985, according to Ward's Automotive Reports. Over the past four years, the share of 4-cylinder engines in American cars fell from 26.7 percent to 25.3 percent.

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