March 6, 2009 (Jobs Byte)

Unemployment Jumps to 8.1 Percent as Job Loss Accelerates

Jobs Byte by Dean Baker

For Immediate Release: March 6, 2009
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

“This report shows that recent economic projections were overly optimistic.”

The February employment report showed the labor market deteriorating at an even faster rate, with the unemployment rate rising from 7.6 percent to 8.1 in February. The economy lost 651,000 jobs in the month, but job loss for the prior two months was revised up as well. Job loss for the last three months is now reported at 2,013,000, an average of 671,000 per month.

Job loss continues to be disproportionately in construction and manufacturing. Construction lost 104,000 jobs in February; it has lost 512,000 jobs since September, 7.2 percent of employment in the sector. Employment in the non-residential sector is falling almost as rapidly as in the residential sector.

Manufacturing lost 168,000 jobs in February, bringing job loss in the sector to 845,000 since September, a decline of 6.3 percent. Hours per worker have also been reduced; the index of aggregate hours is down 9.6 percent since September.  All sectors of manufacturing have been hit hard, but the auto sector has seen the sharpest decline, with employment down by 128,600, or 15.3 percent, since September. The hours index is down by 21.9 percent over this period.