The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Employment Situation Summary for March that shows the nation lost 663,000 jobs during the month. Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007 a staggering 5.1 million jobs have been lost. Two-thirds, or 3.3 million, of those losses have occurred in the last five months. The unemployment rate increased from 8.1 percent to 8.5 percent.
The number of unemployed persons is now 13.2 million. Over the past 12 months that total has grown by 5.3 million and the unemployment rate has increased by 3.4 percentage points. What is striking is that half of the increase in unemployed persons and the unemployment rate has occurred in just the last four months.
Blacks continue to be disproportionately affected, with Black unemployment now at 13.3 percent compared to whites at 7.9 percent. The unemployment rate for Black men is now 15.4 percent and 32.5 percent for Black teenagers, age 16 to 19 years. Black women are faring slightly better with a 9.9 percent unemployment rate. By contrast, white male unemployment is 8 percent, white women 6.5 percent and white teenagers, 20 percent.
Some 2.1 million persons were “marginally attached” to the labor force in March, an increase of 754,000 from a year earlier. These individuals wanted work and were available, and had looked for a job in the prior 12-month period. They were not counted among the unemployed because they had searched for work during the four weeks preceding the BLS survey. Among this group were 685,000 “discouraged workers,” persons not currently looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them. This number represents a 284,000 increase from a year earlier. The other 1.4 million who are marginally attached had not searched for work during the four months prior to the BLS survey due to reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
Last month manufacturing employment continued to slide, shedding 161,000 jobs across industries. The largest decreases were in fabricated metal products (-28,000), machinery (-27,000), and transportation equipment (-26,000). The construction industry was similarly impacted. There was a loss of 126,000 jobs in the sector. Since peaking in January 2007, construction jobs have fallen by 1.3 million with half of the loss occurring over the last five months. Jobs in building construction fell by 33,000 and 83,000 among specialty trade contractors. The declines in both were evenly split between residential and nonresidential projects.
Retail trade employment also continued to plummet, months after a disappointing holiday sales season. The sector lost 48,000 jobs in March with declines of 13,000 in building and material supply stores, 12,000 in automobile dealerships, and 10,000 in electronics and appliance stores. Employment in wholesale trade fell by 31,000 last month. The leisure and hospitality trade also saw a big drop in employment in March, losing 40,000 jobs. Most of the decrease in the sector was in the accommodation industry (-23,000) as business and leisure travel has been significantly curtailed.
The news was also dismal in transportation and warehousing, with a loss of 34,000 jobs in March. Since peaking in December 2007, the sector has shed 265,000 jobs. In March the declines were across the board, in truck transportation (-15,000), support activities (-7,000), couriers and messengers (-5,000). The financial sector dropped 43,000 jobs last month, losing 15,000 jobs in credit intermediation, 12,000 in real estate, and 7,000 in securities, commodity contracts, and investments. The number of jobs in the financial sector has declined by 495,000 since an employment peak in December 2006. Employment in professional and business services fell by 133,000 jobs in March. More than half of the decline was in temporary services, which cut 72,000 jobs last month.
The one bright spot continued to be in health care although the rate of growth slowed in March. The sector added 14,000 jobs last month.