U.S. crude oil futures fell on Thursday as worries that an economic recession in the largest consumer of oil in the world may curb demand.

Oil for delivery in May fell $0.87 or 0.85 percent to $101.67 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 3:22 p.m. Oil has fallen sharply this week. On Monday crude futures rose as high as $111.80 a barrel.

Demand for U.S. fuel over the past four weeks was down 3.2 percent compared to the same period a year ago, a the U.S. Energy Department reported yesterday.

Providing more signs of a slowdown in the economy, a report released today showed the number of jobless people on government aid rolls increased to 378,000 surpassing a forecast of 360,000. The results are the highest in three and a half years.

The Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that the outlook for economic activity has weakened'' and cut lending interest rates by 0.75 percent to 2.25 percent this week to promote economic growth and foster market liquidity. Commodities fell for a second day in New York along with gold, wheat and metals.

Brent crude for May fell 0.76 cents or 0.75 percent to $100.76 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Exchange.