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Poll: Economists Say Unemployment Will Rise Until 2010

More bad news for those of us who are already out here struggling to stay afloat - and for the people trying to hold onto jobs: WASHINGTON — Nearly

More bad news for those of us who are already out here struggling to stay afloat - and for the people trying to hold onto jobs:

WASHINGTON — Nearly one in 10 U.S. workers will be unemployed before the job market starts to improve, economists in a USA TODAY survey predict. Most expect continued deterioration in the overall economy over the next six months.

The unemployment rate will peak at 9.8%, according to their median forecast, up a full percentage point from the prior survey in January. Twenty-one economists predict the unemployment rate will top out at 10% or higher, according to the survey of 51 economists by USA TODAY April 16-22.

Economists also predict the jobless rate will rise for a longer time. Two-thirds say it won't stop rising until 2010 or later, vs. 51% in January.

The unemployment rate in March was 8.5%, the highest in a quarter-century. The rate of underemployment — adding in part-timers who wanted full-time work or those who had stopped looking for a job — hit a record 15.6%.

"Even after we come out of the recession, I expect the unemployment rate to go higher and stay there for a while," says Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. Given the severity of the downturn, he says, "Firms are going to proceed with caution when it comes time to staff up."

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