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 Thousands of Massachusetts residents who have been out of work for more than six months are being hit by the expiration of federal unemployment benefits.

Cash payments for the long-term unemployed were being cut off Saturday after Congress failed to extend the benefits before leaving for the holidays. The development is hitting Massachusetts the hardest because it has significantly higher-than-average percentage of people who have been out of a job for six months or more. Officials say 141,000 people in the Bay State are losing benefits.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate has been creeping up over the year ending in November, going from 6.7 percent to 7.1 percent. That is in contrast to the national rate that declined from 7.8 percent in November 2012 to 7 percent last month. (Associated Press)