February Job Losses Are Bad, But No Worse Than Expected

Mar 6, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Wall Street reacted tepidly this morning to news that job losses in February were in line with expectations and were smaller than the losses in December or January. At the opening, the Dow Jones jumped 130 points, but gave back most of the gain by late morning.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 651,000 jobs were lost during the 28-day month. The government also revised its initial reports on December and January job losses and now says 681,000 jobs were lost in December, up from the initial report of 577,000 losses. In January, 655,000 jobs were lost.

Unemployment increased to 8.1 percent from January’s 7.6 percent; the additional 851,000 unemployed workers swelled the total to 12.5 million. Another 8.6 million Americans were working part time for economic reasons, a number that includes people who work part time because they can’t find full-time jobs.The unemployment rate is now the highest since December 1983. However, when the discouraged workers (those who did not search for a job in the last month) and the involuntary parttimers are added, the rate of un- and under-employed workers is 14.8 percent.

The BLS report says, “Since the recession began in December 2007, about 4.4 million jobs have been lost, with more than half (2.6 million) of the decrease occurring in the last four months.”

Economists had been expecting a February job loss of 652,000, though some reports predicted a far worse scenario. Even so, the monthly job losses are among the worst in half a century in raw numbers. But the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s was significantly smaller so the impact was worse then.

Job losses in professional and business services and manufacturing amounted to a combined 342,000 jobs. Construction losses added another 104,000 jobs to the total. Finance, retail, trucking, and hospitality accounted for another 117,000 of the losses.

Only government (9,000 jobs) and healthcare (27,000 jobs) saw any growth.


This article is part of a series called News & Trends.