Unemployment rose to 8.1% in February-the highest level since 1983-as businesses cut 651,000 non-farm jobs, the Department of Labor reported today.
The economy has lost 3.67 million jobs since the current recession started in December 2007. In the last four months, employment has declined by 2.6 million. The total number of jobs declined during each of the last 14 months.
The number of persons unemployed in February was 12.5 million, up from 11.6 million in January, when the unemployment rate was 7.6%.
The department said the unemployment would have been even higher if it had included the 2.1 million people who have given up seeking work, the same number as in December.
The number of persons unemployed for 27 weeks or more was 2.9 million, a 270,000 increase over January's numbers and a 1.6 million increase from February 2008.
Wages remained sluggish, Average hourly earnings grew 3 cents, compared with 5 cents in December. Over the last 12 months, average hourly earnings increased 3.6% and average weekly earnings rose 2.1%.
As in February, employment increased in government and education/health care while it decreased in manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services.
There were 180,000 losses in professional/business services and 168,000 jobs lost in manufacturing last month.
Other key losses included: the construction industry, 104,000 jobs; retail, 45,000 jobs, and financial activities, 44,000 jobs.
The number of people who worked part time out of necessity-because they could not find full-time work--was 8.6 million, up from 7.8 million in January and representing a 3.1 million increase in the last 12 months.
The unemployment rate among certain segments of the population was: adult men, 8.1%; adult women, 6.7%; blacks, 13.4%; Hispanics, 10.9%; Asians, 6.9%; and teenagers, 21.6%.