U.S. Economy Sheds 663,000 Jobs in March


Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline sharply in March (-663,000), and the unemployment rate rose from 8.1 to 8.5 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.

Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.1 million jobs have been lost, with almost two-thirds (3.3 million) of the decrease occurring in the last 5 months.  In March, job losses were large and widespread across the major industry sectors.

In March, the number of unemployed persons increased by 694,000 to 13.2 million, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent.  Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has grown by about 5.3 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 3.4 percentage points. Half of the increase in both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate occurred in the last 4 months. 

 The unemployment rates continued to trend upward in March for adult men (8.8 percent), adult women (7.0 percent), whites (7.9 percent), and Hispanics (11.4 percent).  The jobless rates for blacks (13.3 percent) and teenagers (21.7 per-cent) were little changed over the month.  The unemployment rate for Asians was 6.4 percent in March, not seasonally adjusted, up from 3.6 percent a year earlier.

Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs increased by 547,000 to 8.2 million in March.  This group has nearly doubled in size over the past 12 months. 
  
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) rose to 3.2 million over the month and has increased by about 1.9 million since the start of the recession in December 2007. 

Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, cut 358,000 workers after a 366,000 decline in February. Financial firms cut payrolls by 43,000, after a 44,000 decrease the prior month. Retail payrolls decreased by 47,800 after a 50,800 drop. Payrolls at builders fell 126,000 after decreasing 107,000, as home construction and sales remain weak. Government payrolls decreased by 5,000 after a gain of 3,000 the prior month.

Employers are also cutting back on hours. The average work week shrank to a record 33.2 hours in March from 33.3. Average weekly hours worked by production workers fell to 39.3 hours from 39.5 hours, while overtime was unchanged at 2.7 hours. That brought average weekly earnings down to $614.20 from $615.05.


TradingEconomics.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics
4/3/2009 5:51:07 AM