US ECON: February Payrolls Fall 651,000; Unemployment At 8.1%
Washington, March 6 - US unemployment rate surged to 8.1% in February, a 25 year high, as the US shed another 651,000 and December's job losses were revised to largest decline in fifty years, the Labor Department said today.
The 651,000 job loss in February came in slightly above the 648,000 lost jobs economists were expecting. But this came after the economy lost 655,000 jobs in January and 681,000 jobs in December; December saw the largest job loss since October 1949. The December/January revisions added another 161,000 lost jobs to the two months for a cumulative 1.3 mln jobs lost.
The economy has now lost 4.168 mln jobs over the last twelve months and a total 4.384 mln since January 2008, when the economy began shedding jobs. More than half of the total losses have occured in the last four months.
Economists have said the economy needs to create about 100,000 jobs each month to keep up with new workers, but with February's numbers, the economy has averaged a loss of about 345,000 jobs per month over the last 12 months.
The unemployment rate, taken from a separate survey of households, rose to 8.1% in February, the highest rate since December 1983. Economists were expecting unemployment to rise to 7.9% from the 7.6% reported in January.
The labor force participation rate, which includes the number of working-aged people with jobs, rose slightly to 65.6%.
Services jobs are usually a major factor in job gains, but 375,000 jobs were lost in this sector in February. Service-sector jobs have declined for the last 14 months.
Construction jobs fell once again, by 104,000, and manufacturing jobs lost 168,000. Manufacturing jobs have not increased in 32 months. Retail jobs fell by 39,500, and February was the 15th straight month of job losses in this sector.
Government added 9,000 jobs in the month and education/health services added 26,000 jobs.
Average hourly wages rose by 0.2% in February as expected. That translated to a gain of 3 cents, putting the average hourly wage at $18.47.
The average workweek was unchanged at 33.3 as expected.