WASHINGTON -- Department of Labor officials yesterday asked financial market participants to discount expected increases in unemployment rates during the first several months of next year because the rates will be distorted by changes in the way they are calculated.

Katharine Abraham, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gave an emphatic "yes," when asked if she hoped participants in the bond and other financial markets would ignore the reported unemployment rate for at least the first few months of next year. "We need to give it some time to settle down," she said during a news conference yesterday.

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