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March 07, 2003
Payrolls Drop by 308,000, But Productivity Rises 0.8 Percent
U.S. employers shed 308,000 payroll jobs in February, pushing the jobless rate to 5.8 percent, the government reported Friday. It was the largest plunge in jobs since November 2001, according to Reuters.

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In a separate report, the government revised its fourth-quarter rates of productivity. Instead of a decline as originally reported, productivity increased 0.8 percent in the nonfarm sector in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to the Labor Department.

Reuters calls the government's report on jobs "shockingly gloomy" because economists had told the news agency they expected payroll jobs to rise by 8,000 in February.

The job losses in February were spread among many sectors, Reuters reports. Payrolls fell by 92,000 in the retail industry, 53,000 in manufacturing, and 48,000 in construction. Employment in services fell by 86,000 in February, the largest monthly job loss since the fall of 2001.

In January, payrolls increased by 185,000 (revised from 143,000), and the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, Reuters notes.

Since a peak in March of 2001, the economy has lost 1.9 million jobs. In February, 8.5 million Americans were unemployed, a 2.8 million increase since the fall of 2000. Last month, about 1.9 million workers had been jobless for 27 weeks or longer and comprised about 22 percent of total unemployment, according to the Labor Department.

The Labor Department says it is unable to measure any impact of call-ups of reservists on the data.

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