30,000 jobs lost a day in March

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The bloodletting of U.S. jobs continues at an unprecedented pace: In March, the number of jobless workers worsened by 663,000, to 13.2 million, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent. That’s about 30,000 jobs lost for each work day in March.

In its monthly jobs report, the Labor Department sums up the latest data, which paint a dire picture of the labor market:

Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.1 million jobs have been lost, with almost two-thirds (3.3 million) of the decrease occurring in the last five months.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Heidi Shierhotz doesn’t mince words about the shockingly bad unemployment rate:

This morning’s unemployment report offered no hint of light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, it showed that the labor market is still in its darkest months.

If those who are underemployed or who want a job but have given up looking are counted, the U.S. unemployment rate stands at a horrifying 15.6 percent—nearly 25 million Americans.

Worse, those who are jobless can’t find new employment.

According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and Institute for Research on Labor and Employment:

In March 2009, 24.2 percent of the jobless were out of work for more than six months, surpassing the previous recession peak of 19.8 percent in November 1982. There are nearly four jobless workers for every job opening, according to the groups, and long-term joblessness is likely to grow further in the months ahead. The long-term unemployed may approach or exceed 30 percent of all jobless workers by 2010.

This from Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment:

Today’s jobless numbers are striking, given both the staggering number of newly unemployed as well as th swelling ranks of long-term unemployed. All the trends indicate that th worst is yet to come. Long-term unemployment usually peaks after the official end of the recession, but with levles already this high it is likely that long-term joblessness will hit an all-time record in the months ahead.

Job loss in March included a loss of 161,000 manufacturing jobs and 126,000 in the construction industry, where jobs have fallen by 1.3 millin since peaking in January 2007. Nearly half of that decline occurred over the past five months. Jobs in retail fell by 48,000.

The loss in manufacturing jobs, according to Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, shows tha the United States must

seek to rebalance trade flows, especially with mercantilist nations like China. G-20 missed in important opportunity this week when it failed to agree to smooth out global imbalances, which have been a contributing factor to the financial and economic turmoil we have experienced over the last 16 months. Until the United States balances its curren account, we’ll see continued weakness in financial and employment markets.

The past five months of job losses are the worse on record, since we began tracking this data in 1939.

As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says:

It is unacceptable that America’s workers are suffering through the worst job loss in a generation while many politicians are still sitting back and standing in the way of reform. Fixing our unemployment problem is as important to ending the recession as addressing the banking system.