Bureau of Labor Statistics
Joint Economic Committee
UNITED STATES CONGRESS
Friday, April 3, 2009
Madam Chair and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the employment and
unemployment data we released this morning.
Labor market conditions continued to deteriorate in March.
Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 663,000, and the
unemployment rate increased from 8.1 to 8.5 percent. Since the
beginning of the recession in December 2007, job losses have
totaled 5.1 million, 3.3 million of which occurred in just the
past 5 months. These declines have been widespread across
industry sectors, but particularly sharp in manufacturing,
construction, and temporary help services. Together, these
industries have accounted for nearly two-thirds of the job loss
during the recession.
In March, manufacturing employment fell by 161,000, with job
losses spread throughout the sector. Since the start of the
recession, manufacturing has shed 1.5 million jobs, with about 60
percent of the loss occurring in the past 5 months. In March,
the average workweek in manufacturing decreased by
two-tenths of an hour.
Construction employment declined by 126,000 over the month.
Since the beginning of the recession, employment has dropped by
about 1.1 million, with more than half of that total occurring in
the past 5 months.
In March, employment continued to contract throughout most
of the service-providing sector. Temporary help services
employment shrank by 72,000 over the month. Employment in the
industry is down by about three-quarters of a million since the
recession began, with over half of that coming in the past 5
months. In March, other large job losses occurred in retail
trade (-48,000), financial activities (-43,000), transportation
and warehousing (-34,000), accommodation and food services
(-32,000), and wholesale trade (-31,000).
Health care employment continued to trend up in March,
although the pace of job growth appears to have slowed in the
past 3 months. In the first quarter of 2009, the industry added
an average of 17,000 jobs per month, compared with a monthly
average of 30,000 in 2008.
Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory
workers in the private sector rose by 3 cents in March, or 0.2
percent. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have
increased by 3.4 percent. From February 2008 to February 2009,
the seasonally adjusted Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage
Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) fell by 0.5 percent.
The major indicators from our household survey also reflect
weaker labor market conditions. In March, the unemployment rate
rose by four-tenths of one percentage point to 8.5 percent, and
the number of unemployed persons reached 13.2 million. Since the
recession began in December 2007, unemployment has surged by 5.6
million; job losers have accounted for about 80 percent of the
increase, with returning workers and new entrants to the labor
market making up smaller portions.
In March, the number of individuals experiencing long spells
of joblessness rose by 265,000 to 3.2 million. Nearly one in
four of the unemployed had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, the
highest ratio since mid-1983.
Over the month, the employment-population ratio slipped to
59.9 percent, 2.8 percentage points lower than at the beginning
of the recession and the lowest level since July 1985. Among the
employed, the number of persons working part time who would
prefer to be working full time increased by 423,000 over the
month to 9.0 million. Since December 2007, this measure has
risen by 4.4 million.
Summarizing the labor market developments for March, payroll
employment fell by 663,000, and the unemployment rate climbed to
8.5 percent. Since the beginning of the recession in December
2007, job losses have totaled 5.1 million.