The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent, the highest since 1983, from 9.7 percent in August, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Payrolls fell by 263,000, following a revised 201,000 decline the prior month that was more/less than previously reported.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke yesterday said the expansion may not be strong enough to substantially” bring down unemployment, indicating the central bank will be slow to drain the trillions of dollars it’s pumped into the economy. UAL Corp. is among companies still cutting jobs on concern spending will fade as government stimulus wanes.
Revisions subtracted 13,000 from payroll figures previously reported for August and July.
Payrolls were forecast to drop 175,000 in September after a 216,000 decline initially reported for August, according to the median of 84 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Estimates ranged from decreases of 260,000 to 100,000. Job losses peaked at 741,000 in January, the most since 1949.
The jobless rate was projected to rise to 9.8 percent. Forecasts ranged from 9.6 percent to 9.9 percent.
The Labor Department today also published its preliminary estimate for the annual benchmark revisions to payrolls that will be issued in February. They showed the economy may have lost an additional 824,000 jobs in the 12 months ended March 2009. The data currently show a 4.8 million drop in employment during that time.
The projected decrease was three times larger than the historical average, the Labor Department said. Most of the drop occurred in the first quarter of this year, probably due to an increase in business closings, the government said.
September’s losses bring total jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007 to 7.2 million, the biggest decline since the Great Depression.
Today’s report showed factory payrolls fell 51,000 after decreasing 66,000 in the prior month. Economists forecast a drop of 52,000. The decline included a drop of 3,500 jobs in auto manufacturing and parts industries.
General Motors Co. this week said it would close the Saturn brand after Penske Automotive Group Inc. broke off discussions to buy the unit. Saturn dealers will have until October 2010 to wind down operations. The Detroit-based automaker said in June a Saturn sale would have saved 13,000 jobs and 350 dealerships.
GM had called back some workers after the government’s cash-for-clunkers” plan cut further into inventories already diminished during the bankruptcy shutdown.
Sales of cars and light trucks plunged last month after the $3 billion incentive plan expired in late August. Vehicles sold at a 9.2 million annual pace in September, down from a 14.1 million annual pace in August.
Payrolls at builders dropped 64,000 after decreasing 60,000. Financial firms decreased payrolls by 10,000, after a 25,000 decline the prior month.
Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, subtracted 147,000 workers after falling 69,000. Retail payrolls decreased by 38,500 after a 8,800 drop.
Government payrolls decreased by 53,000 after falling 19,000 the prior month.
Workers’ average hourly wages rose 1 cent, or 0.1 percent, to $18.67 from the prior month. Hourly earnings were 2.5 percent higher than September 2008, the smallest gain since 2005. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a 0.2 percent increase from the prior month and a 2.6 percent gain for the 12- month period.
Airlines are also cutting staff. UAL’s United Airlines, the third-biggest U.S. carrier, last month furloughed 290 more pilots under a plan to trim jobs and limit labor costs, while American Airlines said it would furlough 228 flight attendants.