Thu January 29, 2004 07:34 PM ET By Peter Szekely WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A record number of unemployed American workers face losing all their income in the first half of 2004 because they are using up their state jobless benefits and Congress has stopped extending them, a private study found on Thursday. The number of jobless workers exhausting their 26 weeks of benefits without qualifying for further aid will reach a record 2 million in the first six months of the year, including 375,000 in January, more than in any other month, a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said. The liberal research group's report comes after the Republican-controlled Congress recessed last month without further extending an emergency program that gives jobless workers another 13 weeks of federal benefits after they use up their 26 weeks of state benefits. Republican congressional leaders argue that a further extension of the emergency program, which began in March 2002, is not necessary because the economy is improving and the unemployment rate has trended downward in recent months, dropping to 5.7 percent in December. But the author of the center's study, Isaac Shapiro, said Congress stopped the program prematurely. "Rather than waiting to end the program at a point where the labor market is relatively healthy, they have ended it at a time when long-term unemployment is still relatively pervasive," Shapiro said in conference call with reporters. The U.S. economy has lost 2.3 million jobs since President Bush took office in January 2001 and an eight-month recession began choking the economy in March of that year. The pace of the labor market's recovery -- 278,000 jobs were added to payrolls since the summer, including a scant 1,000 last month -- has been anemic compared with the economy's robust rebound and is likely to be targeted by Bush's Democratic challenger in the November election. "The (congressional) Republican leadership is opposing an unemployment extension because they believe they have solved America's economic problems," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "But the jobs problem in America has not been solved." Clinton, a New York Democrat, said she was seeking more Republican support and will eventually force a vote on a bill she co-sponsored with Sen. Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, to revive the emergency 13 weeks of jobless benefits. "I'm hoping that as a result of this additional information perhaps we can get some additional Republican support," she said during the conference call arranged by the center. After extending the emergency jobless benefits in January and May 2003, Congress allowed the program to lapse on Dec. 20, 2003, meaning that workers who exhaust their 26 weeks of state unemployment insurance on or after Dec. 21 get no more aid. Not included in the center's estimate of 375,000 workers who are exhausting their state jobless benefits in January are some 200,000 workers who will have used up their additional 13 weeks of federal benefits in that month, bringing the January total of idle workers facing total income loss to 575,000.