Economy Loses 80,000 Jobs, Unemployment Jumps to 5.1 Percent

Jobs Byte by Dean Baker

For Immediate Release: April 4, 2008
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

“Higher inflation is the cost of the high dollar policy of the last decade."
The establishment survey showed the economy losing 80,000 jobs in March, the third consecutive month of job loss. The private sector lost 98,000 jobs, the fourth consecutive decline in private sector employment. Overall, the private sector has lost 296,000 jobs over the last three months, a decline of 97,000 per month. Not surprisingly, the weakness in the labor market is also affecting wage growth. Wages grew at just a 2.5 percent annual rate over the last quarter, well below the rate of inflation and down sharply from the 3.6 percent growth rate over the last year. The household survey showed a 0.3 percentage point jump in the unemployment rate to 5.1 percent, while the employment population ratio (EPOP) fell to 62.6 percent, the lowest rate since March of 2005.

The job loss in the establishment survey was widely spread across sectors, although construction and manufacturing continue to be hardest hit, shedding 51,000 and 48,000 jobs, respectively. Both residential and non-residential construction are now reducing payrolls, as overbuilding in the non-residential sector is leading developers to cut back in this sector also. Construction employment is down by 182,000 since November and by 356,000 (4.6 percent) over the last year.

Manufacturing employment is down by 151,000 since November and by 310,000 (2.2 percent) over the last year. The auto sector has been especially hard hit, losing 47,500 jobs since November and 95,000 (9.3 percent) over the last year, although this loss is somewhat inflated by a parts strike last month. The apparel and textile sectors also continue to be big losers, shedding 19,700 jobs since November and 45,700 jobs (8.2 percent) over the last year.