Friday, April 03, 2009
The Labor Department reported a net job loss of 663,000 during the month of March and an increase in the unemployment rate from 8.1 percent to 8.5 percent.
In a break from previous monthly reports, downward revisions to prior data were limited to an 86,000 decline in the January payrolls, from -655,000 to -741,000, making January the worst month for job losses since October of 1949.
Adjusted for the size of the workforce, the January decline was the worst since 1974.
At 8.5 percent, the unemployment rate reached its highest level since 1983 as the total number of unemployed people rose to 13.2 million. If those working part-time for "economic reasons" and those too discouraged to continue looking for work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 15.6 percent in March, the highest since this data series began in 1994.
Job loss was widespread in March, only the stalwart education and health services category able to muster a modest net gain of 8,000 new jobs. Employment in manufacturing declined by 161,000, professional and business services payrolls fell 133,000, and construction lost 126,000 jobs. Temporary help declined by 72,000, an indication that employers are still slashing jobs aggressively.
Total job loss since the beginning of the current recession that began in late-2007 now stands at 5.1 million, a full 3.3 million of this decline coming in just the last five months.
Remember that employment is a lagging indicator. While the last recession ended in late-2001, net job loss continued for almost two more years, the "official" end to the recession following shortly after the worst of the monthly declines in nonfarm payrolls.
It remains to be seen whether or not the worst of the job losses in the current recession are already behind us.