WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s unemployment rate bolted to 8.1 percent in February, the highest since late 1983, as cost-cutting employers slashed 651,000 jobs.
Both figures were worse than analysts expected and the Labor Department’s report shows America’s workers being clobbered by a relentless wave of layoffs.
The net loss of 651,000 jobs in February came after even deeper payroll reductions in the prior two months, according to revised figures. The economy lost 681,000 jobs in December and another 655,000 in January.
Employers are shrinking their work forces at alarming clip and are turning to other ways to slash costs — including trimming workers’ hours, freezing wages or cutting pay — because the recession has eaten into their sales and profits. Customers at home and abroad are cutting back as other countries cope with their own economic problems.
Job losses were widespread in February.
Construction companies eliminated 104,000 jobs. Factories axed 168,000. Retailers cut nearly 40,000. Professional and business services got rid of 180,000, with 78,000 jobs lost at temporary-help agencies. Financial companies reduced payrolls by 44,000. Leisure and hospitality firms chopped 33,000 positions.
The few areas spared: education and health services, as well as government, which boosted employment last month.
Disappearing jobs and evaporating wealth from tanking home values, 401(k)s and other investments have forced consumers to retrench, driving companies to lay off workers. It’s a vicious cycle in which all the economy’s negative problems feed on each other, worsening the downward spiral.