Interest Rate Roundup

Friday, March 06, 2009

February employment report: 651,000 jobs lost, unemployment at 8.1%

The big February jobs report was just released. The numbers were grim, but largely in line with the market's dismal expectations. Here's a recap ...

* The economy shed 651,000 jobs in February. That compared to an upwardly revised 655,000 in January (previous number: 598,000). December's initial reading of 577,000 was also revised sharply higher to 681,000. In other words, taking into account all revisions, the economy lost 161,000 more jobs than previously forecast.

* By sector, construction lost another 104,000 jobs, while manufacturing shed 168,000. The trade, transport, and utility industries came in at -124,000, while the information business (think publishing, movies, telecom and so on) dropped 15,000 and the financial industry axed 44,000 workers. Leisure and hospitality shed 33,000, while education and health remained the brightest spot at +26,000. Government added 9,000 as well.

* The unemployment rate surged to 8.1% from 7.6% a month earlier. That was higher than the 7.9% forecast and the highest level going all the way back to December 1983. If you add discouraged workers and/or people who are working part-time for economic reasons to the mix, you get an all-in unemployment rate of 14.8%, up from 13.9% in January.

* Average hourly earnings gained an anemic 0.2%, equal to last month's downwardly revised 0.2% reading. Average weekly hours worked held at a dismal 33.3. The private nonfarm diffusion index, which measures how many industries are cutting jobs against how many are adding them, inched up to 23.8 in February from 23.2 a month earlier. That's a slight positive.


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