Unemployment Hits 8.5 PercentThe country's unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in March. It is at its highest since late 1983, and on Friday the Labor Department reported employers eliminated 663,000 jobs.
The average work week in March dropped to 33.2 hours, a new record low. Economists expect April to be equally bad.
March's total job losses were slightly higher than the 654,000 that economists expected. The rise in the unemployment rate matched expectations. Employers cut 651,000 jobs in February, when the jobless rate was 8.1 percent, the same as initially estimated. January's job losses, however, were revised much higher, to 741,000 from 655,000.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 5.1 million jobs, with almost two-thirds of the losses occurring in the last five months. The number of unemployed people climbed to 13.2 million in March. In addition, the number of people forced to work part time for "economic reasons" rose by 423,000 to 9 million. Those are people who would like to work full time but whose hours were cut back or were unable to find full-time work.
Economists predict monthly job losses to continue for most of the year, though some are hopeful that payroll reductions in the current quarter won't be as deep as the roughly 685,000 average monthly job losses in the January-March period.