US unemployment jumps to 8.1 percent; 651,000 jobs lost (Lead)

March 6th, 2009 - 11:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 6 (DPA) The US shed 651,000 jobs in February, the latest sign of a deepening recession and raising the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent, the US Labour Department said Friday.
The unemployment rate now stands at its highest level since 1983 and 4.4 million people have lost their jobs since the US recession began in December 2007.

The Labour Department also revised its figures over the last two months, now reporting 681,000 job cuts in December, the worst monthly loss since 1948, and 655,000 were lost in January. That compares to an earlier estimate of 577,000 and 598,000 for two months.

Job losses were “large and widespread” across nearly all sectors of the economy, led by manufacturing, construction and financial services, the department said. The only major exceptions were the health care industry and government.

The US economy, the world’s largest, shrank 6.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and many economists are expecting a similar contraction at the start of this year. The Federal Reserve has said it doesn’t expect a recovery until late this year or early 2010.

President Barack Obama will likely use the latest figures to tout the urgency of quickly disbursing an unprecedented $787-billion economic stimulus package approved last month.

The administration hopes its plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs over the next two years.

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