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March 06, 2009
Jobless Rate Reaches Highest Level in More than 20 Years

Employers shed 651,000 jobs from their payrolls in February and the unemployment rose from 7.6 percent to 8.1 percent, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

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Payroll employment has declined by 2.6 million in the past 4 months. In February, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major industry sectors. Since the recession began in December 2007, about 4.4 million jobs have been lost.

In February, employment declined in most major industry sectors, with the largest losses occurring in professional and business services, manufacturing, and construction. Health care continued to add jobs over the month.

The number of people who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) rose by 787,000 in February, reaching 8.6 million. The number of such workers rose by 3.7 million over the past 12 months. This category includes persons who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs.

Among persons who were neither working nor looking for work in February, about 2.1 million were classified as marginally attached to the labor force, up from about 1.6 million a year earlier. These individuals wanted a job, were available for work, and had looked for a job within the last 12 months. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed no jobs were available for them, has nearly doubled over the past 12 months to 731,000.

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