March 12, 2008 – The U.S. lost a total of 63,000 jobs last month, the largest decline in jobs in nearly five years. February’s job numbers, released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, continues to fuel recession fears and pushes job losses for the year over 80,000.
With 22,000 jobs lost in January, it also marks the first time since June 2003 that there have been consecutive months of job loss. While the job loss was widespread, manufacturing and construction continue to be hit the hardest, losing 59,000 and 39,000 jobs respectively.
The unemployment rate, meanwhile, improved to 4.8 percent from 4.9 percent. However, it was a result of the large increase in the number of people that the government says have stopped working or looking for jobs for various reasons. If the 450,000 people who left the labor force in February had been counted among the unemployed, the unemployment rate would have actually been 5.1 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The dismal job numbers, combined with the large number of workers dropping out of the workforce, has led to increased calls to extend unemployment benefits.
“Today’s job losses—the worst in five years—emphasize the urgent need for more effective action,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Extending and improving unemployment benefits is the best way to bring immediate help to the millions who are out of work and provide a much-needed jump-start to our economy.”