U.S. employers cut a surprisingly large 80,000 jobs in March, the biggest decline in employment in five years, the Labor Deparment said on April 4. It was the third straight month of job losses and steeper than the figure of 50,000 losses expected by most economists.
The mounting job losses swelled the national unemployment rate to 5.1% last month compared with 4.8% in February.
Manufacturers slashed 48,000 posts last month. Big auto manufacturers have shrunk their payrolls in recent months amid declining car sales, while Wall Street's liquidity squeeze has triggered layoffs at banks, and finance and mortgage firms.
Professional and business services firms cut 35,000 positions and the retail industry lost 12,000 workers.
One bright spot was the education and health care sectors which added 42,000 jobs to industry payrolls. The government hired 18,000 new workers.
The latest nonfarm layoffs represented the sharpest monthly decline since March 2003. "Some people were questioning whether we're in a recession. Now they can't. We're clearly and positively in a recession," said Robert MacIntosh, chief economist at Eaton Vance Corp.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008