TAIPEI (AFP) - The number of monthly unemployment benefit claims in Taiwan hit a record 100,000 in February, as the local economy deteriorates in the face of the world financial crisis, officials said Monday. The February jobless claims totalled two billion Taiwan dollars (57 million US), marking the highest level since the government launched this particular scheme in 1999, the Bureau of Labour Insurance said. The more than 100,000 applications for benefits received by the bureau last month was also a record high, it added. "The demand for jobless claims started to spike in the fourth quarter of last year and the trend continued into this year," a bureau spokeswoman said. "If the job market keeps deteriorating, it is likely we will see higher numbers ahead," a bureau spokeswoman said. In January, Taiwan's unemployment rate rose to a six-year high of 5.31 percent largely due to business downsizing and closures. The total number of jobless people stood at 578,000 according to government figures. Taiwan, the sixth biggest economy in Asia, has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, with record falls in its key export sector. The island suffered an economic contraction of 8.36 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, its most severe since 1961.