Unemployment rose to 8.5% in March-the highest level since November 1983-as businesses cut 694,000 non-farm jobs, the Department of Labor reported today.
The economy has lost 5.1 million jobs since the current recession started in December 2007. In the last five months, 3.3 million jobs have been lost. The total number of jobs declined during each of the last 15 months.
The number of persons unemployed in March was 13.2million, up from 12.5 million in February, when the unemployment rate was 8.1%.
The department said the unemployment would have been even higher if it had included the 2.1 million people it describes as "marginally attached" to the labor force. Those are individuals who wanted to work and were available and had searched for a job within the last year, but not within the past four weeks. That was the same number as February and 754,000 more than in March 2008.
The number of persons unemployed for 27 weeks or more was 3.2 million, up from 2.9 million in February.
Wages remained sluggish, average hourly earnings grew 3 cents, compared with 4 cents in February. Over the last 12 months, average hourly earnings increased 3.4% and average weekly earnings rose 1.5%.
As in February, employment increased in education/health care while it decreased in manufacturing, construction, and professional and business services.
There were 66,000 jobs lost in manufacturing 133,000 losses in professional/business services last month.
Other key losses included: the construction industry, 126,000 jobs; retail, 48,000 jobs, and financial activities, 43,000 jobs.
The number of people who worked part time out of necessity-because they could not find full-time work--was 9 million, up from 8.6 million in February and up from 4.9 million in March 2008.
The unemployment rate among certain segments of the population was: adult men, 8.8%; adult women, 7%; blacks, 13.3%; Hispanics, 11.4; Asians, 6.4%; and teenagers, 21.7%.